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Decay dynamics and carbon sequestration of lying coarse woody debris (CWD) of Fagus sylvatica, Picea abies and Pinus sylvestris

concluded 2016/12



Coarse woody debris (CWD), or dead wood, is an essential component of forest ecosystems. It is particularly important for biodiversity and possibly ecosystem carbon storage. In the past, CWD was removed from managed forests due to the intensive nature of forest utilisation and forest health considerations. However, today it is recognised as a key structural element and as an indicator for ecologically sustainable forest management. There are, therefore, numerous efforts underway on the part of forestry and nature conservation to ‘reintroduce’ and incorporate coarse woody debris into managed forests and management plans. Yet to do so in a meaningful way, it is necessary to obtain basic knowledge about the dynamics of decay and the duration of the decomposition process. For Central Europe, particularly the duration of the different decay stages until decomposition and the sequestered carbon released into the atmosphere and the forest floor is as yet unknown. The main purpose of this project is to assess the decomposition rates of lying coarse woody debris as a function of tree species (Fagus sylvatica, Picea abies, Pinus sylvestris), size and decay stage, as well as climatic parameters (temperature, precipitation), and to model the decomposition rate. The decay rates will be assessed for CWD for which the time of origin is known (e.g., storm events, management records). Decay rates will be assessed in two different ways: (1) via current respiration rates related to decay stage, temperature and wood moisture content and (2) retrospectively via mass loss in relation to the whole decomposition period and the different decay stages. The results of this study ought to provide the framework for science-based, sustainable management of coarse woody debris. Furthermore, the modelling of the decomposition of coarse woody debris is an essential component of carbon accounting for forest ecosystems.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr.  Jürgen Bauhus
Researcher: Steffen Herrmann
Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Duration: Apr. 2006 – Mar 2009 (since 2009 external doctoral study)
Partner: Dr. Norbert Bartsch, Waldbau-Institut, Universität Göttingen
Dr. Peter Meyer, Niedersächsische Forstliche Versuchsanstalt, Göttingen
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