The role of deadwood in the carbon cycle: Implications for models, forest management, and future climates

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Baptiste Joseph Wijas, Steven D Allison, Amy T Austin, William K Cornwell, J. Hans C. Cornelissen, Paul Eggleton, Shawn Fraver, Mark KJ Ooi, Jeff R Powell , Chris W Woodall, Amy E Zanne


Deadwood represents a significant carbon pool in forests and savannas. Although previous research has focused mainly on forests, we synthesise deadwood studies across all ecosystems with woody vegetation. Storage and release of carbon from deadwood is controlled by interacting decomposition drivers including biotic consumers (animals, microbes) and abiotic factors (water, fire, sunlight, freeze-thaw). As changing climates and land use practices alter the landscape, we expect accelerating but variable rates of inputs and outputs from deadwood pools. Currently, Earth system models implicitly represent only microbial consumers as drivers of wood decomposition; we show that many other factors influence deadwood pools. Forest management practices increasingly recognise the importance of deadwood for controlling forest dynamics, biodiversity and carbon emissions. Together, emerging knowledge from modelling and management suggests a dire need for additional knowledge on deadwood contributions to carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions.



Biogeochemistry, Earth Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Sciences, Forest Biology, Forest Management, Forest Sciences, Life Sciences, Natural Resources and Conservation, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Plant Biology, Plant Sciences, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Carbon cycle, Deadwood, global change, management, modelling, Pools


Published: 2024-01-10 20:32


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data and Code Availability Statement:
The data used to produce figures is found within the manuscript as a table.