A comparison of coarse woody debris volume and variety between old-growth and secondary longleaf pine forests in the southeastern United States
Few efforts have been made to quantify the amount and variety of deadwood in frequently burned ecosystems, particularly the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) ecosystem of the southeastern United States. Moreover, comparisons of coarse woody debris between old-growth and secondary longleaf pine forests are lacking despite the widely recognized value of deadwood to biodiversity in many forest types. We measured standing and fallen deadwood in three old-growth and four mature (100–125 years-old) secondary forests in two landscapes characterized by either sandy or clayey soils within the historic range of P. palustris. Downed coarse woody debris volume was variable at the old-growth locations, ranging from 2.51 ± 0.79 to 29.10 ± 14.55m3 per ha, which includes perhaps the lowest values ever reported from any old-growth forest. Factors likely contributing to these low volumes include frequent fire, the low basal area characteristic of this forest type, subtropical climatic conditions of the southeastern Coastal Plain, and large termite populations. The high variability observed among the three old-growth locations probably reflect interactions between fire and other disturbances (e.g., wind damage). The old-growth location on sandy soils had significantly higher coarse woody debris volume and deadwood variety (e.g., diameter increments, posture, tree genera and decay classes) than secondary forests sampled nearby. Highly resinous heartwood is a significant indicator of old-growth conditions relative to secondary locations, appearing to accumulate as a persistent fraction of the deadwood pool over time.