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Tree Physiol. 2002 Feb;22(2-3):77-89.

Successional changes in live and dead wood carbon stores: implications for net ecosystem productivity.

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Department of Forest Science, Richardson Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


If forests are to be used in CO2 mitigation projects, it is essential to understand and quantify the impacts of disturbance on net ecosystem productivity (NEP; i.e., the change in ecosystem carbon (C) storage with time). We examined the influence of live tree and coarse woody debris (CWD) on NEP during secondary succession based on data collected along a 500-year chronosequence on the Wind River Ranger District, Washington. We developed a simple statistical model of live and dead wood accumulation and decomposition to predict changes in the woody component of NEP, which we call NEP(w). The transition from negative to positive NEP(w), for a series of scenarios in which none to all wood was left after disturbance, occurred between 0 and 57 years after disturbance. The timing of this transition decreased as live-tree growth rates increased, and increased as CWD left after disturbance increased. Maximum and minimum NEP(w) for all scenarios were 3.9 and -14.1 Mg C ha-1 year-1, respectively. Maximum live and total wood C stores of 319 and 393 Mg C ha(-1), respectively, were reached approximately 200 years after disturbance. Decomposition rates (k) of CWD ranged between 0.013 and 0.043 year-1 for individual stands. Regenerating stands took 41 years to attain a mean live wood mass equivalent to the mean mass of CWD left behind after logging, 40 years to equal the mean CWD mass in 500-year-old forest, and more than 150 years to equal the mean total live and dead wood in an old-growth stand. At a rotation age of 80 years, regenerating stands stored approximately half the wood C of the remaining nearby old-growth forests (predominant age 500 years), indicating that conversion of old-growth forests to younger managed forests results in a significant net release of C to the atmosphere.

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