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Keywords:

  • Alberta;
  • Bole decomposition;
  • Canada;
  • Canadian Rocky Mountains;
  • Dead-tree fall;
  • Dendrochronology;
  • Forest reconstruction;
  • Log decay;
  • Stand history

Abstract. Rates of decomposition were determined for the boles of Pinus contorta var. latifolia Engelm. and Picea engelmannii Parry ex. Engelm. in five lower subalpine forest stands in the Southern Canadian Rocky Mountains. Stands ranged in age from 58 to 222 yr since last fire. The date of death of standing dead and fallen boles was determined by cross-dating their ring-width patterns to stand master ring- width chronologies. Boles could be dated which had been dead for up to 35 years in a 58-yr old stand and 100 yr in a 222-yr old stand.

An empirical relationship between mass density and diameter of live trees was used to predict the mass density at death for trees already dead. The falling rate of dead standing boles was estimated from the dead bole's time of death and whether it was standing or on the ground at the time of observation. The falling rates for both Pinus contorta and Picea engelmannii ranged from 0.020 to 0.064/yr falling with most stands in the 0.050 range. No effect of size was found on the falling rate probably as a result of the small size of the boles (< 20 cm). Because of their dry condition standing dead boles do not decompose.

An equation was developed which estimates the time a dead bole has been on the ground, given that it would have stood for some time before falling over and been subject to little decomposition during this time. Decomposition rates, using a negative exponential model, gave only marginally better r2 than linear models. Pinus contorta had exponential decay rates from 0.0299 and 0.0171 mass density loss/yr for the most recent 15 and 25 yr in stands 58 yr old, to 0.0045 and 0.0035 mass loss/yr for the most recent 65 and 80 yr in stands 215 and 222 yr old. Picea engelmannii had exponential decay rates of 0.0054 and 0.0025 mass loss/yr for the most recent 20 and 65 yr in stands 99 and 215 yr old.