Skip to Main Content
Ecosystem processes related to wood decayAuthor(s): Bruce G. Marcot
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: Download Publication (8.0 MB)
DescriptionWood 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.
- Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
- 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.
CitationMarcot, 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.
KeywordsWood decay, coarse woody debris, ecosystem processes, forest biodiversity, restoration, habitat.
- If a tree falls in the woods, who will measure it? DecAID decayed wood advisor.
- DecAID advisor: a tool for managing snags, down wood and wood decay in PNW forests.
- A review of the role of fungi in wood decay of forest ecosystems
XML: View XML