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): Matthew B. Russell; Shawn Fraver; Tuomas Aakala; Jeffrey H. GoveChristopher W. Woodall; Anthony W. D’Amato; Mark J. Ducey
    Date: 2015
    Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 350: 107-128.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Northern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.01 MB)


    The amount and dynamics of forest dead wood (both standing and downed) has been quantified by a variety of approaches throughout the forest science and ecology literature. Differences in the sampling and quantification of dead wood can lead to differences in our understanding of forests and their role in the sequestration and emissions of CO2, as well as in developing appropriate strategies for achieving dead wood-related objectives, including biodiversity protection, and procurement of forest bioenergy feedstocks. A thorough understanding of the various methods available for quantifying dead wood stores and decomposition is critical for comparing studies and drawing valid conclusions. General assessments of forest dead wood are conducted by numerous countries as a part of their national forest inventories, while detailed experiments that employ field-based and modeling methods to understand woody debris patterns and processes have greatly advanced our understanding of dead wood dynamics. We review methods for quantifying dead wood in forest ecosystems, with an emphasis on biomass and carbon attributes. These methods encompass various sampling protocols for inventorying standing dead trees and downed woody debris, and an assortment of approaches for forecasting wood decomposition through time. Recent research has provided insight on dead wood attributes related to biomass and carbon content, through the use of structural reduction factors and robust modeling approaches, both of which have improved our understanding of dead wood dynamics. Our review, while emphasizing temperate forests, identifies key research needs and knowledge which at present impede our ability to accurately characterize dead wood populations. In sum, we synthesize the current literature on the measurement and dynamics of forest dead wood carbon stores and decomposition as a baseline for researchers and natural resource managers concerned about forest dead wood patterns and processes.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • 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.


    Russell, Matthew B.; Fraver, Shawn; Aakala, Tuomas; Gove, Jeffrey H.; Woodall, Christopher W.; D’Amato, Anthony W.; Ducey, Mark J. 2015. Quantifying carbon stores and decomposition in dead wood: A review. Forest Ecology and Management. 350: 107-128.


    Google Scholar


    Coarse woody debris, Downed dead wood, Standing dead trees, Carbon flux, Forest inventory, Forest fuels

    Related Search

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