Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Christopher M. Gough


Landscapes are comprised of multiple ecosystems shaped by disturbances varying in severity and source. Moderate disturbance from weather, pathogens, insects, and age-related senescence, in contrast to severe disturbances that fell trees, may increase standing woody debris and alter the contribution of coarse woody debris (CWD) to total ecosystem respiration (RE). However, woody debris dynamics are rarely examined following moderate disturbances that substantially increase standing dead wood stocks. We used an experimental manipulation of moderate disturbance in an upper Great Lakes forest to: 1) examine decadal changes in CWD stocks through a moderate disturbance; 2) quantify in situ CWD respiration during different stages of decay for downed and standing woody debris and; 3) estimate the annual contribution of CWD respiration to the ecosystem C balance through comparison with RE and net ecosystem production (NEP). We found that the standing dead wood mass of 24.5 Mg C ha-1 was an order of magnitude greater than downed woody debris stocks and a large source of ecosystem C flux six years following disturbance. Instantaneous in situ respiration rates from standing and downed woody debris in the earliest stages of decay were not significantly different from one another. Independently derived estimates of ecosystem CWD respiration of 1.1to 2.1 Mg C ha-1 yr-1 six years following disturbance were comparable in magnitude to NEP and 12.5 % to 23.8 % of RE, representing a substantial increase relative to pre-disturbance levels. Ecosystem respiration and NEP were stable following moderate disturbance even though ecosystem CWD respiration increased substantially, suggesting a reduction in the respiratory C contribution from other sources. We conclude that CWD is an essential component of the ecosystem C balance following a moderate forest disturbance.


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