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Oecologia. 2010 Sep;164(1):243-51. doi: 10.1007/s00442-010-1602-8. Epub 2010 Mar 31.

Modeling decay rates of dead wood in a neotropical forest.

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  • 1Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, UMR EcoFoG, 97387, Kourou, French Guiana. bruno.herault@ecofog.gf

Abstract

Variation of dead wood decay rates among tropical trees remains one source of uncertainty in global models of the carbon cycle. Taking advantage of a broad forest plot network surveyed for tree mortality over a 23-year period, we measured the remaining fraction of boles from 367 dead trees from 26 neotropical species widely varying in wood density (0.23-1.24 g cm(-3)) and tree circumference at death time (31.5-272.0 cm). We modeled decay rates within a Bayesian framework assuming a first order differential equation to model the decomposition process and tested for the effects of forest management (selective logging vs. unexploited), of mode of death (standing vs. downed) and of topographical levels (bottomlands vs. hillsides vs. hilltops) on wood decay rates. The general decay model predicts the observed remaining fraction of dead wood (R2 = 60%) with only two biological predictors: tree circumference at death time and wood specific density. Neither selective logging nor local topography had a differential effect on wood decay rates. Including the mode of death into the model revealed that standing dead trees decomposed faster than downed dead trees, but the gain of model accuracy remains rather marginal. Overall, these results suggest that the release of carbon from tropical dead trees to the atmosphere can be simply estimated using tree circumference at death time and wood density.

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