Unwanted Christmas trees become a fish refuge

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Ever wondered what happens to the Christmas trees that aren't sold? In some areas of the US they have become unlikely refuges for fish.

It's a sad thought that after all those years of care and attention, some Christmas trees never make it into our living rooms to become a seasonal centrepiece. These forlorn rejects are destined never to be draped in tinsel, lights and baubles and instead lay in a yard somewhere, unsold and unloved, slowly dropping needles until they are chucked on a bonfire or unceremoniously flung into a shredder and made into wood chips at the end of the festive season.

However, surplus spruce in several areas of the US are finding new purpose to their existence as they become unlikely refuges for fish.

From Ohio to the San Francisco Bay local wildlife authorities are collecting leftover trees and throwing them in reservoirs, where strung together these sunken spruce form a welcoming habitat for young fish in the often barren reservoir environment.

The decaying trees rapidly become colonised by algae and micro-organisms which kick start the food chain for the fish fry, while at the same time offering protection from larger fish and other predators.

This unusual final destination for the trees helps maintain the reservoirs' fish stocks naturally, lessening the need to re-stock artificially.

Once in situ on the lake floor they can last up to five years, and bio-diversity in the lakes where the trees have been added rises noticeably, both above and below the water, with increased osprey, kingfisher, heron and otter sightings reported.

Fishermen also report bigger, healthier and more plentiful fish populations. The trees are all donated by local Christmas tree sellers at the end of the festive season, as those already used in peoples' homes may have been treated with chemicals to prevent needle loss, or could still be bedecked in stray tinsel which could pose a risk to wildlife.

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