Temporal variability of deadwood volume and quality in boreal old-growth forests
Reference deadwood volumes from natural forests for forest management and restoration are often derived from one-time measurements or from repeated measurements over short time-scales. Such an approach often assumes an equilibrium state between tree mortality and decomposition, which is questionable in many boreal forest ecosystems due to the occurrence of allogenic disturbances. Using a simulation model based on empirical estimates of tree mortality, disturbance chronologies and models of wood decay class dynamics, this study aimed at characterizing variability in the volume and quality of deadwood for the past 200 years. The variability of deadwood volumes in old-growth forests, arising from differences in disturbance regimes and differing decay rates, was exemplified in two areas of Picea abies-dominated forests in northern Europe. The results imply that with stable deadwood input and slow decay rates the deadwood volume may be in an equilibrium state. On the contrary, if moderate-severity disturbances occur such a state seems improbable. Both study areas displayed continuity in deadwood availability, although temporary paucity in the early decay classes with shortest residence times was also observed. The results stress the importance of understanding the dynamic nature of deadwood in old-growth forests, instead of the traditional view of deadwood as a static ecosystem component.
Received 16 November 2010 Accepted 24 October 2011 Published 31 December 2011