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Postfire dynamics of black spruce coarse woody debris in northern boreal forest of Quebec

Boulanger, Y., Sirois, L.
Canadian journal of forest research = 2006 v.36 no.7 pp. 1770-1780
chronosequences, boreal forests, wood density, nitrogen, Picea mariana, forest litter, dead wood, fire ecology, carbon, carbon sequestration, water content, biodegradation, forest fires, branches, bark, Quebec
In this study, postfire coarse woody debris (CWD) dynamics in northern Quebec, Canada, were assessed using a 29-year chronosequence. Postfire woody-debris storage, decomposition rates, and variation of nitrogen and carbon contents of black spruce CWD (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) are estimated. The decomposition rate for postfire snags is exceptionally slow (k=0.00), while the decomposition rate for logs (k=0.019-0.021) is within previously recorded values for the boreal forest. The low decomposition rate for snags could be related to low moisture content associated with the position of debris and fast bark shedding. Given the low CWD decomposition rates and CWD storage (21.3-66.8 m3·ha-1), carbon losses from postfire CWD are relatively low, varying between 35.5 and 128.8 kg·ha-1·year-1 at the study sites. The nitrogen content in CWD drops quickly between living trees and snags and increases slightly with time since fire in logs. Nitrogen content is not related to wood density or to moisture content of deadwood. Rapid loss of nitrogen is associated with fast decomposition of subcortical tissues, leaching, and insect comminution. The increase in nitrogen content at the oldest site could result from asymbiotic nitrogen fixation, although a longer time span in the chronosequence would probably have revealed a greater nitrogen gain in increasingly decayed CWD.