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Quantitative and Qualitative Measures of Decomposition: Is There a Link?

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Decomposition rates of loblolly pine coarse woody debris (CWD) were determined by mass loss and wood density changes for trees that differed in source of mortality (natural, girdle-poison, and felling). Specifically, three treatments were examined: (1) control (CON): natural mortality; (2) CD: 5-fold increase in CWD compared with the CON; and (3) CS: 12-fold increase in snags compared with the CON. The additional CWD in the CD treatment plots and the additional snags in the CS plots were achieved by felling (for the CD plots) or girdling followed by herbicide injection (for the CS plots) select trees in these plots. Consequently, mortality on the CD plots is due to natural causes and felling. Likewise, mortality on the CS plots is due to natural causes and girdle-poison. In each treatment plot, mortality due to natural causes was inventoried since 1997, whereas mortality due to girdle-poison and felling were inventoried since 2001. No significant difference was detected between the rates of decomposition for the CWD on these treatment plots, indicating that source of the tree mortality did not influence rates of decomposition once the tree fell. These experimental measures of decomposition were compared with two decay classification systems (three- and five-unit classifications) to determine linkages. Changes in wood density did not correlate to any decay classification, whereas mass loss had a weak correlation with decay class. However, the large degree of variation limits the utility of decay classification systems in estimating mass loss.
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Keywords: coarse woody debris; decay class; loblolly pine

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-08-01

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