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Elizabeth McClinton - Forest Ecology

Mississippi Valley State, Itta Bena

Coarse Woody Debris: Relevance in Mature Forests

The recognition of the role of dead trees and woody detritus in forests has led to an increasing demand for appropriate methods for field studies (Harmon and Sexton et al. 1996). Dead trees serve many key functions in ecosystems (Franklin et al. 1987). Since dead trees may persist for centuries (McFee and Stone 1966, Triska and Cromack 1980), they can influence ecosystems for just as long as living trees. Coarse woody debris is not only an important factor in the survival of many terrestrial microorganisms, its presence is also important in the maintenance of each individual forest carbon budget. By providing an estimate of the standing dead coarse woody debris, along with the fluxes between living vegetation, standing and downed coarse woody debris within a mature forest, we will gain understanding and become able to compose a schematic carbon cycle diagram for that particular forest.
Over an eight week period, a standing dead tree analysis and line intercept was conducted to find the numbers needed to provide feasible estimates that would befit the carbon cycle diagram produced. As a result, it was found that living vegetation contained 191.7 mgC/ha and standing dead vegetation contained 2.84 mgC/ha. Tree death provided 2.4 mgC/ha/yr, coarse litter fall from living vegetation provided .705 mgC/ha/yr, and coarse litter fall from standing dead vegetation provided 1.12 mgC/ha/yr. The grand total of coarse litter was 1.8 mgC/ha. It addition to that, over 98% of the forest plot analyzed was living vegetation, 1% was standing dead, and less than 1% was coarse woody debris on the ground. In conclusion, it was our intent to produce a simple guideline for others to follow in order to continue studies in coarse woody debris.

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation – Research Experience for Undergraduates