Dead wood is an important component of forest ecosystems and volumes vary depending on forest age, management intensity and productivity. This is the first large-scale study to quantify dead wood in Irish forests and to compare them to forests in other locations. We measured the volume and size distribution of logs, the density and size distribution of snags and the volume of dead wood contained in stumps in Oak (Quercus spp.) and Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) forests and in Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) plantations throughout Ireland. We also assigned each log, snag and stump to one of three decay classes (intact, part-rotted and well-rotted). We found no significant difference in log volume between any of the forest types. The majority (>90%) of logs were less than 20 cm in diameter, and large logs (>40 cm diameter) were scarce. We found a relatively high density of snags in all forest types but, as in the case of logs, over 90% of snags were <20 cm DBH and large snags (>40 cm DBH) were rare. The volume of dead wood contained in stumps was significantly higher in plantations than in Oak or Ash forests as a result of thinning and harvesting. Most logs and snags were moderately decayed but, in plantations, most stumps were intact. Log volume and the size of logs and snags were considerably lower than in old-growth forests in other regions. These patterns may reflect historical use of Irish forests for coppice and timber production. Management for biodiversity should aim to accelerate dead wood accumulation to increase the frequency of large-diameter logs and snags. Although management seeking to replicate the dead wood volumes of old-growth forests is ideal, it may be unrealistic in the short term. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.