Biological and Physical Drivers of Coarse Woody Debris Respiration Following Moderate Forest Disturbance
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Forest disturbances that cause plant mortality alter the net carbon (C) balance by increasing heterotrophic respiration associated with coarse woody debris (CWD) decomposition. Whether a forest transitions from a C sink to source following disturbance is largely a function of the quantity of additional CWD produced and the rate of woody debris decomposition. Coarse woody debris temperature, moisture, and microbial community composition are known to drive rates of heterotrophic respiration, but rarely have these factors been studied together across a gradient of wood decay and over time following disturbance. We used a large-scale experimental disturbance, in which early successional aspen (Populus spp.) and birch (Betula papyrifera) were killed via stem girdling within a 39 ha area, to study the effects of moderate disturbance on the forest C cycle. We quantified changes over time in CWD mass for a decade, before and after disturbance. We then conducted point measurements of CWD respiration, temperature and moisture, and quantified extracellular enzyme activity of enzymes associated with wood decomposition for five classes varying in extent of decay and standing woody debris. Process and inventory data are being used to estimate ecosystem CO2 efflux from CWD, which we will contrast with net ecosystem production (NEP) determined from long-term eddy covariance measurements of net CO2 exchange between the forest and atmosphere at the University of Michigan Biological Station (US-UMd) Ameriflux site. Our results will improve ecosystem model predictions of CWD respiration by incorporating both physical factors, such as temperature and wood moisture content, and biological factors, such as extracellular enzymatic activity of different functional types of decomposers.