Dead tree trunks have significant ecosystem functions related to biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles. When lying on the soil surface, they are colonized by an array of invertebrate fauna, but what determines their community composition is still unclear. We apply community assembly theory to colonization of tree logs by invertebrates. During early decomposition, the attached bark is critically important as an environment filter for community assembly through habitat provision. Specifically, we hypothesized that the more dissimilar bark traits were between tree species, the more their faunal community compositions would differ. We tested this hypothesis by investigating the effects of bark traits on the invertebrate communities in the early-decomposing logs of 11 common, temperate tree species placed in the ‘common garden’ experiment LOGLIFE. Bark traits included bark looseness, fissure index, outer bark thickness, ratio of inner to outer bark thickness, punch resistance, water storage capacity and bark pH. The predominant faunal groups studied were Annelida, Isopoda, Chilopoda, Diplopoda, Diptera and Coleoptera. Our results showed (i) strong interspecific differences in bark traits, (ii) that bark traits related to environmental buffering had profound effects on the abundance of specific invertebrate groups, and (iii) the higher the overall bark trait dissimilarity between tree species, the more dissimilar these tree species were in faunal community composition, and the higher was the joint invertebrate family richness. A suite of bark traits together has fundamental afterlife effects on invertebrate community assembly, strongly filtering the colonizing invertebrates in early-decomposing logs, driving variation in their community composition and diversity. Our findings indicate that bark trait dissimilarity among tree species in forest stands is likely a better indicator of early-phase dead trunk fauna diversity than tree species diversity per se. A lay summary is available for this article.