Document Type





coarse woody debris, decomposition, nitrogen, carbon, calcium


Civil and Environmental Engineering


The decomposition of coarse woody debris contributes to forest nutrient sustainability and carbon balances, yet few field studies have been undertaken to investigate these relationships in northern hardwood forests. We used a paired-sample approach to study the decomposition of sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.), American beech (Fagus grandifolia Erhr.), and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britt.) boles at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire. Mass loss over 16 yr followed a first-order exponential decay pattern with half-lives ranging from 4.9 to 9.4 yr in bark, and 7.3 to 10.9 yr in wood. Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations increased significantly during decomposition, resulting in sharp decreases in C:N and C:P ratios. We did not, however, observe significant net increases in the amount of N or P stored in decomposing boles, as reported in some other studies. Calcium concentration decreased by up to 50% in bark, but more than doubled in wood of all species. The retention of Ca in decomposing wood helps maintain Ca pools in this base-poor ecosystem. Together, the exponential model for mass loss and a combined power-exponential model for changes in nutrient concentrations were able to simulate nutrient dynamics in decomposing boles after clear-cutting in an adjacent watershed.



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