Deadwood stocks increase with selective logging and large tree frequency in Gabon.

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Deadwood is a major component of aboveground biomass (AGB) in tropical forests and is important as habitat and for nutrient cycling and carbon storage. With deforestation and degradation taking place throughout the tropics, improved understanding of the magnitude and spatial variation in deadwood is vital for the development of regional and global carbon budgets. However, this potentially important carbon pool is poorly quantified in Afrotropical forests and the regional drivers of deadwood stocks are unknown. In the first large-scale study of deadwood in Central Africa, we quantified stocks in 47 forest sites across Gabon and evaluated the effects of disturbance (logging), forest structure variables (live AGB, wood density, abundance of large trees), and abiotic variables (temperature, precipitation, seasonality). Average deadwood stocks (measured as necromass, the biomass of deadwood) were 65 Mg ha-1 or 23% of live AGB. Deadwood stocks varied spatially with disturbance and forest structure, but not abiotic variables. Deadwood stocks increased significantly with logging (+38 Mg ha-1 ) and the abundance of large trees (+2.4 Mg ha-1 for every tree >60 cm dbh). Gabon holds 0.74 Pg C, or 21% of total aboveground carbon in deadwood, a threefold increase over previous estimates. Importantly, deadwood densities in Gabon are comparable to those in the Neotropics and respond similarly to logging, but represent a lower proportion of live AGB (median of 18% in Gabon compared to 26% in the Neotropics). In forest carbon accounting, necromass is often assumed to be a constant proportion (9%) of biomass, but in humid tropical forests this ratio varies from 2% in undisturbed forest to 300% in logged forest. Because logging significantly increases the deadwood carbon pool, estimates of tropical forest carbon should at a minimum use different ratios for logged (mean of 30%) and unlogged forests (mean of 18%).





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Carlson, Ben S, Sally E Koerner, Vincent P Medjibe, Lee JT White and John R Poulsen (2017). Deadwood stocks increase with selective logging and large tree frequency in Gabon. Glob Chang Biol, 23(4). pp. 1648–1660. 10.1111/gcb.13453 Retrieved from

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John Poulsen

Associate Professor of Tropical Ecology

John Poulsen is an ecologist with broad interests in the maintenance and regeneration of tropical forests and conservation of biodiversity. His research has focused on the effects of anthropogenic disturbance, such as logging and hunting, on forest structure and diversity, abundance of tropical animals, and ecological processes. He has conducted most of his research in Central Africa, where he has also worked as a conservation manager, directing projects to sustainably manage natural resources in and around parks and reserves, and as the coordinator of government programs to develop low emissions strategies and quantify and monitor forest carbon.

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