Woody debris contribution to the carbon budget of selectively logged and maturing mid-latitude forests

Wendy H. Liu, David M. Bryant, Lucy R. Hutyra, Scott R. Saleska, Elizabeth Hammond-Pyle, Daniel Curran, Steven C. Wofsy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Woody debris (WD) is an important component of forest C budgets, both as a C reservoir and source of CO2 to the atmosphere. We used an infrared gas analyzer and closed dynamic chamber to measure CO2 efflux from downed coarse WD (CWD; diameter≥7.5 cm) and fine WD (FWD; 7.5 cm > diameter≥2 cm) to assess respiration in a selectively logged forest and a maturing forest (control site) in the northeastern USA. We developed two linear regression models to predict WD respiration: one based on WD temperature, moisture, and size (R2 = 0.57), and the other on decay class and air temperature (R2 = 0.32). WD respiration (0.28±0.09 Mg C ha-1 year-1) contributed only ≈2% of total ecosystem respiration (12.3±0.7 Mg C ha-1 year-1, 1999-2003), but net C flux from CWD accounted for up to 30% of net ecosystem exchange in the maturing forest. C flux from CWD on the logged site increased modestly, from 0.61±0.29 Mg C ha-1 year-1 prior to logging to 0.77±0.23 Mg C ha-1 year-1 after logging, reflecting increased CWD stocks. FWD biomass and associated respiration flux were ≈7 times and ≈5 times greater, respectively, in the logged site than the control site. The net C flux associated with CWD, including inputs and respiratory outputs, was 0.35±0.19 Mg C ha-1 year-1 (net C sink) in the control site and -0.30±0.30 Mg C ha-1 year-1 (net C source) in the logged site. We infer that accumulation of WD may represent a small net C sink in maturing northern hardwood forests. Disturbance, such as selective logging, can enlarge the WD pool, increasing the net C flux from the WD pool to the atmosphere and potentially causing it to become a net C source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-117
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Coarse woody debris
  • Fine woody debris
  • Infrared gas analyzer
  • Northern hardwood forest
  • Respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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