Dynamics of standing deadwood in Austrian forests under varying forest management and climatic conditions.

Published online
23 Aug 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Oettel, J. & Zolles, A. & Gschwantner, T. & Lapin, K. & Kindermann, G. & Schweinzer, K. M. & Gossner, M. M. & Essl, F.
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Standing deadwood is an important structural component of forest ecosystems. Its occurrence and dynamics influence both carbon fluxes and the availability of habitats for many species. However, deadwood is greatly reduced in managed, and even in many currently unmanaged temperate forests in Europe. To date, few studies have examined how environmental factors, forest management and changing climate affect the availability of standing deadwood and its dynamics. Data from five periods of the Austrian National Forest Inventory (1981-2009) were used to (I) analyse standing deadwood volume in relation to living volume stock, elevation, eco-region, forest type, ownership and management intensity, (II) investigate the influence of forest ownership and management intensity on snag persistence and (III) define drivers of standing deadwood volume loss for seven tree genera (Abies, Alnus, Fagus, Larix, Picea, Pinus and Quercus) using tree-related, site-related and climate-related variables, and predict volume loss under two climate change scenarios. Standing deadwood volume was mainly determined by living volume stock and elevation, resulting in different distributions between eco-regions. While forest type and management intensity influenced standing deadwood volume only slightly, the latter exhibited a significant effect on persistence. Snag persistence was shorter in intensively managed forests than in extensively managed forests and shorter in private than in public forests. Standing deadwood volume loss was driven by a combination of diameter at breast height, elevation, as well as temperature, precipitation and relative humidity. Volume loss under climate change predictions revealed constant rates for moderate climate change (RCP2.6) by the end of the 21st century. Under severe climate change conditions (RCP8.5), volume loss increased for most tree genera, with Quercus, Alnus and Picea showing different predictions depending on the model used as the baseline scenario. We observed trends towards faster volume loss at higher temperatures and lower elevations and slower volume loss at high precipitation levels. The tree genera most susceptible to climate change were Pinus and Fagus, while Abies was least susceptible. Synthesis and applications. We recommend to protect standing dead trees from regular harvesting to ensure the full decomposition process. The consequences for decomposition-dependent species must be taken into account to evaluate the influences of management and climate change on standing deadwood dynamics.

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