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Time since death and decay rate constants of Norway spruce and European larch deadwood in subalpine forests determined using dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating


Petrillo, Marta; Cherubini, Paolo; Fravolini, Giulia; Ascher, Judith; Schärer, Michael; Synal, Hans-Arno; Bertoldi, Daniela; Camin, Federica; Larcher, Roberto; Egli, Markus (2015). Time since death and decay rate constants of Norway spruce and European larch deadwood in subalpine forests determined using dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating. Biogeosciences Discussions, 12(17):14797-14832.

Abstract

Due to the large size and highly heterogeneous spatial distribution of deadwood, the time scales involved in the coarse woody debris (CWD) decay of Picea abies (L.) Karst. and Larix decidua Mill. in Alpine forests have been poorly investigated and are largely unknown. We investigated the CWD decay dynamics in an Alpine valley in Italy using the five-decay class system commonly employed for forest surveys, based on a macromorphological and visual assessment. For the decay classes 1 to 3, most of the dendrochronological samples were cross-dated to assess the time that had elapsed since tree death, but for decay classes 4 and 5 (poorly preserved tree rings) and some others not having enough tree rings, radiocarbon dating was used. In addition, density, cellulose and lignin data were measured for the dated CWD. The decay rate constants for spruce and larch were estimated on the basis of the density loss using a single negative exponential model. In the decay classes 1 to 3, the ages of the CWD were similar varying between 1 and 54 years for spruce and 3 and 40 years for larch with no significant differences between the classes; classes 1–3 are therefore not indicative for deadwood age. We found, however, distinct tree species-specific differences in decay classes 4 and 5, with larch CWD reaching an average age of 210 years in class 5 and spruce only 77 years. The mean CWD rate constants were 0.012 to 0.018 yr⁻¹ for spruce and 0.005 to 0.012 yr⁻¹ for larch. Cellulose and lignin time trends half-lives (using a multiple-exponential model) could be derived on the basis of the ages of the CWD. The half-lives for cellulose were 21 yr for spruce and 50 yr for larch. The half-life of lignin is considerably higher and may be more than 100 years in larch CWD.

Abstract

Due to the large size and highly heterogeneous spatial distribution of deadwood, the time scales involved in the coarse woody debris (CWD) decay of Picea abies (L.) Karst. and Larix decidua Mill. in Alpine forests have been poorly investigated and are largely unknown. We investigated the CWD decay dynamics in an Alpine valley in Italy using the five-decay class system commonly employed for forest surveys, based on a macromorphological and visual assessment. For the decay classes 1 to 3, most of the dendrochronological samples were cross-dated to assess the time that had elapsed since tree death, but for decay classes 4 and 5 (poorly preserved tree rings) and some others not having enough tree rings, radiocarbon dating was used. In addition, density, cellulose and lignin data were measured for the dated CWD. The decay rate constants for spruce and larch were estimated on the basis of the density loss using a single negative exponential model. In the decay classes 1 to 3, the ages of the CWD were similar varying between 1 and 54 years for spruce and 3 and 40 years for larch with no significant differences between the classes; classes 1–3 are therefore not indicative for deadwood age. We found, however, distinct tree species-specific differences in decay classes 4 and 5, with larch CWD reaching an average age of 210 years in class 5 and spruce only 77 years. The mean CWD rate constants were 0.012 to 0.018 yr⁻¹ for spruce and 0.005 to 0.012 yr⁻¹ for larch. Cellulose and lignin time trends half-lives (using a multiple-exponential model) could be derived on the basis of the ages of the CWD. The half-lives for cellulose were 21 yr for spruce and 50 yr for larch. The half-life of lignin is considerably higher and may be more than 100 years in larch CWD.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:21 Jan 2016 13:21
Last Modified:19 Aug 2018 01:49
Publisher:Copernicus Publications
ISSN:1810-6285
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/bgd-12-14797-2015
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID205321L_141186
  • : Project TitleEffect of climate on coarse woody debris decay dynamics and incorporation into the soils of forested Alpine areas (Decalp)

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