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The Response of Tropical Rainforest Dead Wood Respiration to Seasonal Drought

Abstract

Coarse woody debris (CWD, dead wood sections ≥10 cm diameter) represents a large store of carbon in tropical forests; however, estimates of the flux of carbon from CWD in these forests remain poorly constrained. The objective of this study was to resolve the dry/wet season response of respiration in CWD (R cwd), and investigate the importance of biotic and abiotic factors for predicting the seasonal change of R cwd at the ecosystem level. This study presents a 4-month time series of R cwd measurements conducted on 42 dead trees (26 species) at the Paracou Research Station in French Guiana. R cwd measurements were repeated 13 times on each CWD sample from July to November 2011, spanning the transition from wet to dry season, and then from dry season to the following wet season. Seasonal drought caused monthly R cwd to drop by 20.5 ± 5.1% over the wet–dry transition. Changes in woody tissue moisture content explained 41.9% of the measured seasonal variability in R cwd, but 60% of the seasonal variability in mean forest R cwd rates could be modelled using surface soil water content. We estimate that R cwd is approximately 5% of annual ecosystem respiration (R eco) and that seasonal variations in R cwd contribute appreciably to seasonal variations of R eco, and should be included in functional models simulating the response of tropical rainforest ecosystems to current and future climate.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank J. Cazal, J. Goret, B. Leudet and B. Burban for their extensive help during the data collection for this paper. Also we would like to thank C. Baralotto, C. Fortunel, J. Beauchene and B. Hérault for the many fruitful discussions. The authors would also like to thank two anonymous reviews for their suggestions and comments which contributed substantially to the quality of this paper. To enable this study LR gratefully acknowledges support from the Natural Environment Research Council (UK) for a NERC PhD studentship and grant NERC number NE/F002149/1, and a National Resources International postgraduate fellowship (UK). The support from NERC NE/J011002/1 and ARC FT110100457 is also gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to L. Rowland.

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LM: Study design, data collection, data analysis, paper writing. CS: Project design, data collection, and paper writing. DB: Study design, paper writing. MW: Study design, paper writing. LS: Contribution to methods, data analysis. PM: Study design, paper writing.

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Rowland, L., Stahl, C., Bonal, D. et al. The Response of Tropical Rainforest Dead Wood Respiration to Seasonal Drought. Ecosystems 16, 1294–1309 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-013-9684-x

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Keywords

  • coarse woody debris
  • respiration
  • seasonal drought
  • soil water content
  • Amazon rainforest
  • woody moisture content