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Woody debris contribution to the carbon budget of selectively logged and maturing mid-latitude forests

Abstract

Woody debris (WD) is an important component of forest C budgets, both as a C reservoir and source of CO2 to the atmosphere. We used an infrared gas analyzer and closed dynamic chamber to measure CO2 efflux from downed coarse WD (CWD; diameter≥7.5 cm) and fine WD (FWD; 7.5 cm>diameter≥2 cm) to assess respiration in a selectively logged forest and a maturing forest (control site) in the northeastern USA. We developed two linear regression models to predict WD respiration: one based on WD temperature, moisture, and size (R 2=0.57), and the other on decay class and air temperature (R 2=0.32). WD respiration (0.28±0.09 Mg C ha−1 year−1) contributed only ≈2% of total ecosystem respiration (12.3±0.7 Mg C ha−1 year−1, 1999–2003), but net C flux from CWD accounted for up to 30% of net ecosystem exchange in the maturing forest. C flux from CWD on the logged site increased modestly, from 0.61±0.29 Mg C ha−1 year−1 prior to logging to 0.77±0.23 Mg C ha−1 year−1 after logging, reflecting increased CWD stocks. FWD biomass and associated respiration flux were ≈7 times and ≈5 times greater, respectively, in the logged site than the control site. The net C flux associated with CWD, including inputs and respiratory outputs, was 0.35±0.19 Mg C ha−1 year−1 (net C sink) in the control site and −0.30±0.30 Mg C ha−1 year−1 (net C source) in the logged site. We infer that accumulation of WD may represent a small net C sink in maturing northern hardwood forests. Disturbance, such as selective logging, can enlarge the WD pool, increasing the net C flux from the WD pool to the atmosphere and potentially causing it to become a net C source.

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Acknowledgements

We thank C. Barford, B. Curry, C. Jones, Z. Liscow, K. McKain, D. Patterson, and J. Silvis for conducting the CWD and FWD inventories. Thanks to S. Pears, G. Santoni, J. Wofsy, and G. Yang for field assistance with the WD respiration measurements. We also thank J. W. Munger whose dedication makes our Harvard Forest research possible. This work was supported by grants to Harvard University from the National Science Foundation LTER program (NSF DEB-0080592) and by the Office of Science (BER), U.S. Department of Energy, through the Northeast Regional Center of the National Institute for Global Environmental Change under Cooperative Agreement no. DE-FC02-03ER63613 and the Terrestrial Carbon Program (DE-FG02-95ER62002). Financial support does not constitute an endorsement by DOE of the views expressed in the report.

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Correspondence to Wendy H. Liu.

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Communicated by Russell Monson

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Liu, W.H., Bryant, D.M., Hutyra, L.R. et al. Woody debris contribution to the carbon budget of selectively logged and maturing mid-latitude forests. Oecologia 148, 108 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-006-0356-9

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Keywords

  • Coarse woody debris
  • Fine woody debris
  • Infrared gas analyzer
  • Northern hardwood forest
  • Respiration