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Temporal changes in stem decay and dead and sound wood volumes in the northeastern Canadian boreal forest

Barrette, Julie, Pothier, David, Ward, Charles
Canadian journal of forest research = 2013 v.43 no.3 pp. 234-244
Abies balsamea, Picea mariana, boreal forests, chronosequences, dead wood, prediction, temporal variation, trees, wood
Yield tables used for stand-level predictions of standing volume typically do not account for the presence of dead trees and stem decay. Yet, recently dead trees, referred to as dead and sound wood (DSW), could be considered as a valuable supplemental wood source. Conversely, stem decay can cause important losses during product recovery. Accordingly, the general objective of this study was to characterize the patterns of change of stem decay and of DSW as functions of time since the last fire (TSF). The amount of stem decay and of DSW per tree species were measured in two chronosequences of 30 stands each, covering more than 1000 years in the northeastern Canadian boreal forest. Stand-level decay volume increased during the first 150 years following fire and then stabilized. This volume was mainly composed of black spruce (Piceamariana (Mill.) BSP) when TSF <200 years and of balsam fir (Abiesbalsamea (L.) Mill.) when TSF >200 years. Conversely, the volume of DSW declined rapidly after fire and increased gradually from about 200 years TSF. Hence, the loss of wood volume attributable to stem decay in old-growth stands was cancelled out by the increased availability of DSW, with a slightly positive balance of 3.5 m³/ha. This could be significant considering the large amount of old-growth stands in this part of the boreal forest.