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    Author(s): Bruce G. Marcot
    Date: 2017
    Source: Res. Note. PNW-RN-576. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 43 p.
    Publication Series: Research Note (RN)
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: View PDF  (8.0 MB)


    Wood decay elements include snags, down wood, root wads, tree stumps, litter, duff, broomed or diseased branches, and partially dead trees, all of which contribute to ecological processes and biodiversity of the forest ecosystem. Down wood can serve as reservoirs for moisture and mycorrhizal fungi beneficial to the health and growth of commercial tree species. Decaying wood, leaf litter, small twigs, and roots contribute nutrients and structure to humus and soil organic matter, and host microbes that play beneficial roles in nitrogen cycles and other processes. Snags and down wood provide nurse functions for tree and shrub species, and can aid in restoration of degraded forest environments. Various elements of wood decay provide habitat for many species of wildlife including invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Fire can influence the amounts and distributions of wood decay elements and enhance or detract desired ecosystem processes, depending on severity, charring, soil temperature, and other factors. Managing wood decay elements for ecosystem processes entails better understanding decay dynamics, the role of coarse wood in soil, the role of wood decay in carbon cycling and sequestration, and other considerations.

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    Marcot, Bruce G. 2017. Ecosystem processes related to wood decay. Res. Note. PNW-RN-576. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 43 p.


    Wood decay, coarse woody debris, ecosystem processes, forest biodiversity, restoration, habitat.

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