Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Mark A. Bradford; Robert J. Warren; Petr Baldrian; Thomas W. Crowther; Daniel S. Maynard; Emily E. Oldfield; William R. Wieder; Stephen A. Wood; Joshua R. King
    Date: 2014
    Source: Nature Climate Change
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Southern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (587.27 KB)


    Decomposition of organic matter strongly influences ecosystem carbon storage1. In Earth-system models, climate is a predominant control on the decomposition rates of organic matter2, 3, 4, 5. This assumption is based on the mean response of decomposition to climate, yet there is a growing appreciation in other areas of global change science that projections based on mean responses can be irrelevant and misleading6, 7. We test whether climate controls on the decomposition rate of dead wood—a carbon stock estimated to represent 73 ± 6 Pg carbon globally8—are sensitive to the spatial scale from which they are inferred. We show that the common assumption that climate is a predominant control on decomposition is supported only when local-scale variation is aggregated into mean values. Disaggregated data instead reveal that local-scale factors explain 73% of the variation in wood decomposition, and climate only 28%. Further, the temperature sensitivity of decomposition estimated from local versus mean analyses is 1.3-times greater. Fundamental issues with mean correlations were highlighted decades ago9, 10, yet mean climate–decomposition relationships are used to generate simulations that inform management and adaptation under environmental change. Our results suggest that to predict accurately how decomposition will respond to climate change, models must account for local-scale factors that control regional dynamics.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Bradford, Mark A.; Warren, Robert J., II; Baldrian, Petr; Crowther, Thomas W.; Maynard, Daniel S.; Oldfield, Emily E.; Wieder, William R.; Wood, Stephen A.; King, Joshua R. 2014. Climate fails to predict wood decomposition at regional scales. Nature Climate Change. 4: 625-630. Doi: 10.1038/nclimate2251.

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page