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Woody material structural degradation through decomposition

Author(s): Shawn Fraver, Mehdi Tajvidi, Anthony W. D'Amato, Daniel I. Lindner, Jodi A. Forrester, Amy M. Milo
Year Published: 2018

Dead woody material (DWM) plays numerous important roles in forest ecosystems; however, through the process of decomposition, it undergoes structural and chemical changes that progressively alter its function in these roles. Much remains unknown about how DWM mechanical strength and structural integrity change through decomposition in natural forest settings. We assessed changes in wood strength (bending strength, compressive strength, and surface hardness) using standard wood stakes of known initial mass from three species. The stakes were placed in forested settings for two and four years before collection for laboratory analyses. All three strength metrics decreased as stakes lost mass due to decay; however, bending strength had the strongest relationship with mass loss, a result that was consistent for all species, as well as species-pooled data. Results for all strength-loss metrics indicate that stakes had experienced ca. 10% strength loss before any detectable mass loss had occurred. Further, our results suggest that the decay class system typically used during field inventories—based in large part on tactile assessments of wood structural integrity — may provide a reasonable characterization of DWM mass loss, which is a critical assumption for carbon accounting and modelling based on inventory data.

Citation: Fraver S, Tajvidi M, D’Amato AW, Lindner DL, Forrester JA, Milo AM. 2018. Woody material structural degradation through decomposition. Can. J. For. Res. 48: 111–115. dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjfr-2017-0175
Topic(s): Fire & Climate, Carbon Sequestration, Fuels, Fuel Descriptions
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 16439
Record updated: Jun 21, 2018