Canadian Forest Service Publications

Estimation of snag carbon transfer rates by ecozone and lead species for forests in Canada. 2012. Hilger, A.B.; Shaw, C.H.; Metsaranta, J.M.; Kurz, W.A. Ecological Applications 22(8):2078-2090.

Year: 2012

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34233

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (request by e-mail)

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Standing dead trees (snags) and downed woody debris contribute substantially to the carbon (C) budget of Canada’s forest. Accurate parameterization of the C transfer rates (CTRs) from snags to downed woody debris is important for forest C dynamics models such as the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3), but CTRs are rarely measured or reported in the literature. Therefore, forest C models generally use snag fall rates (FRs) available in the literature, as a proxy for CTRs. However, FRs are based on stem counts while CTRs refer to mass transfers. Stem mass and stem number are not linearly related, with small diameter trees representing disproportionately lower C mass transfers. Therefore this proxy, while convenient, may bias C transfer from standing dead to downed woody material. Here, we combined tree data from 10 802 sample plots and previously published species-specific individual-tree relationships between tree diameter (diameter at breast height, dbh) and fall rate to derive stand-level estimates of CTRs for the CBM-CFS3. We estimated CTRs and FRs and used the FR values to validate this approach by comparing them with standardized FR values compiled from the literature. FRs generally differed from CTRs. The overall CTR (4.78% 6 0.02% per year, mean 6 SE) was significantly smaller than the overall FR (5.40% 6 0.02% per year; mean 6 SE). Both the difference between FR and CTR (FR CTR) and the CTR itself varied by ecozone, with ecozone means for CTR ranging from 3.94% per year to 10.02% per year. This variation was explained, in part, by heterogeneity in species composition, size (dbh distribution), structure, and age of the stands. The overall mean CTR estimated for the Snag_Stemwood (4.78% per year) and the Snag_Branches (11.95% per year) pools of the CBM-CFS3 were approximately 50% and 20% higher than the current default rates used in the CBM-CFS3 of 3.2% and 10.0%, respectively. Our results demonstrate that using CTRs to estimate the annual C transfer from standing dead trees to downed woody biomass will yield more accurate estimates of C fluxes than using a FR proxy, and this accuracy could be further improved by accounting for differences in ecozone, stand component (hardwood or softwood), or lead species.