Greenhouse trace gases in deadwood

K. R. Covey*, C. P Bueno de Mesquita, B. Oberle, D. S. Maynard, C. Bettigole, T. W. Crowther, M. C. Duguid, B. Steven, A. E. Zanne, M. Lapin, M. S. Ashton, C. D. Oliver, X. Lee, M. A. Bradford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Deadwood, long recognized as playing an important role in storing carbon and releasing it as CO2 in forest ecosystems, is more recently drawing attention for its potential role in the cycling of other greenhouse trace gases. Across three Northeastern and Central US forests, mean methane (CH4) concentrations in deadwood were 23 times atmospheric levels (43.0 μL L−1 ± 12.3; mean ± SE), indicating a lower bound, mean radial wood surface area flux of ~6 × 10−4 μmol CH4 m−2 s−1. Site, decay class, log diameter, and species were all highly significant predictors of CH4 abundance in deadwood, and diameter and decay class interacted as important controls limiting CH4 concentrations in the smallest and most decayed logs. Nitrous oxide (N2O) concentrations were negatively correlated with CH4 (r2 = −0.20, p < 0.001) and on average ~25 % lower than ambient (276.9 nL L−1 ± 2.9; mean ± SE), indicating net consumption of nitrous oxide. Oxygen (O2) concentrations were uniformly near anaerobic (355.8 μL L−1 ±1.2; mean ± SE), and CO2 was elevated from atmospheric (9336.9 μL L−1 ± 600.6; mean ± SE). Most notably, our observations that CH4 concentrations were highest in the least decayed wood, may suggest that methanogenesis is not fuelled by structural wood decomposition but rather by consumption of more labile nonstructural carbohydrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Decomposition
  • Methane
  • Methanogenesis
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Nonstructural carbohydrates
  • Trace gases
  • woody debris

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