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Title: Coarse woody debris carbon storage across a mean annual temperature gradient in tropical montane wet forest

Author: Iwashita, Darcey K.; Litton, Creighton M.; Giardina, Christian P.;

Date: 2013

Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 291: 336-343.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Coarse woody debris (CWD; defined here as fallen and standing dead trees and tree ferns) is a critical structural and functional component of forest ecosystems that typically comprises a large proportion of total aboveground carbon (C) storage. However, CWD estimates for the tropics are uncommon, and little is known about how C storage in CWD will respond to climate change. Given the predominant role that tropical forests play in global C cycling, this information gap compromises efforts to forecast climate change impacts on terrestrial C balance. The primary objectives of this study were to: (i) quantify CWD C storage in a tropical montane wet forest; and (ii) determine if CWD C storage varies with mean annual temperature (MAT). Coarse woody debris C was quantified with line-intercept sampling techniques in nine permanent plots located across a highly constrained 5.2 degree C MAT gradient spanning 800 m elevation on the eastern slope of Mauna Kea Volcano, Island of Hawaii. Forests across this tropical montane MAT gradient contained large quantities of CWD C (44.3 ± 11.2 Mg ha-1; Mean ± 1 SE), which accounted for an estimated 17% of total aboveground C storage. Across the entire gradient, CWD C was found primarily as: moderately decayed CWD (Decay Class 2); tree CWD; fallen CWD; and small diameter CWD (2–10 cm). Tree ferns accounted for an average of ∼20% of total CWD C, but are rarely included in tropical CWD estimates. Overall, total CWD C ranged from 12.2 to 104.6 Mg ha-1 across the MAT gradient, and decreased with increasing MAT. The negative relationship between CWD and MAT was driven by large accumulations of standing tree CWD at cooler MATs, as fallen CWD did not vary with MAT. The results presented here are in line with limited evidence from tropical studies showing that CWD can make up a large fraction of total aboveground C storage. In addition, these data suggest that CWD could become a net C source to the atmosphere in tropical forests with future warming. A decrease in tropical montane CWD C storage would have important implications for global C dynamics and atmospheric CO2 levels.

Keywords: Aboveground carbon storage, Climate change, Hawaii, Metrosideros polymorpha, Tree fern

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Iwashita, Darcey K.; Litton, Creighton M.; Giardina, Christian P. 2013. Coarse woody debris carbon storage across a mean annual temperature gradient in tropical montane wet forest. Forest Ecology and Management. 291: 336-343.

 


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