Remsburg, A. J. 2005. Amount, position and age of coarse wood influence litter decomposition within and among young post-fire Pinus contorta stands. MS Thesis, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Spatial variation in vegetation and coarse wood is a major source of forest heterogeneity, yet little is known about how this affects  ecosystem processes. In 15-yr post-fire Pinus contorta stands of Yellowstone National Park, we investigated how decomposition varies with coarse wood and other dominant structures within and among stands.  Tongue depressors (Betula sp.; TD) and litterbags containing herbaceous litter (HL) and needles (NL) were deployed for two years within three burned stands, and among 17 burned stands and three mature stands (each 0.25-ha).  Within stands, decomposition varied among six microsite treatments (above and below legacy wood, below logs on the ground and elevated logs, below saplings, and on open soil).  Two-year  mass loss of all litter types was least under elevated logs (HL 34.0%, NL 8.6%, TD 7.4%), and greatest under legacy wood (HL 55%, NL 33%, TD 16%). Moisture was also consistently lowest under elevated logs and highest beneath logs on the ground. Among stands, two-year mass losses of HL and TD were negatively  related to amount of elevated wood.  Slower decay at stands with more  coarse wood can influence carbon retention. Coarse wood accumulation patterns remaining long after disturbances influence litter decomposition within and among forest stands.