Buried Wood: A Common Yet Poorly Documented Form of Deadwood
Buried wood (BW: downed deadwood buried more than 50% by soil, litter, or ground vegetation) is a common but understudied part of forest ecosystems. We reviewed the literature and conducted a meta-analysis of BW that included new data from Australia, Belarus, Canada, Germany, Japan, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, the USA, and Wales. Buried wood occurred in a wide range of forest types of natural and anthropogenic origin. In some forests, BW was effectively preserved and volumes of BW exceeded the volume of all other live and deadwood combined. Boreal and oroboreal coniferous forests contained large amounts of BW, whereas hardwood forests appeared to contain little BW due to differences in ground vegetation, wood decomposition pathways, and climatic and edaphic conditions. Coniferous forests growing on paludified ground represent areas with a large capacity to store BW. The largest quantity of BW reported was 935 m3 ha−1 in paludified black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.)) forests, where typically mature live bole volumes are only 150 m3 ha−1. Buried wood can accumulate over several disturbance cycles (centuries), due to greatly reduced rates of decomposition following burial. As such, BW can represent a large forest C pool that is currently not recognized in forest C accounting using field measurements or models. Failing to account for wood burial can lead to underestimates of ecosystem deadwood stocks as well as misinterpretations of ecosystem dynamics. Buried wood and the burial process should be included in forest measurement and models, particularly for boreal and oroboreal ecosystems, to reduce uncertainty and improve accuracy in forest C accounting. This will require improvements to existing field sampling protocols and collection of long-term data on processes creating BW.
Keywordscoarse woody debris disturbance history carbon paludification boreal bryophytes moss litter
We thank Glenda Russo for compiling BW data from the Canadian National Forest Inventory. For helping provide observations of BW, we thank Marie-Charlotte Nilsson for Swedish data, Richard Carrick for data from Wales, UK, Merten Minke for data from Belarus, Ekaterina Shorohova for data from Russia, and M. Hasegawa and S. Yamashita for data from Japan. Japanese observations were supported by the Global Environment Research Fund (S9). Data collection in the Forest School Enterprise (FSE) of the Technical University of Zvolen, Slovakia was supported by the Research and Development Operational Programme funded by ERDF under the project Centre of Excellence “Decision support in forest and country”, ITMS 26220120069. The collection of data from the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest was supported by a grant from the US National Science Foundation (DEB-0823380).
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