European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 137, Issue 5, pp 643–657 | Cite as

Carbon and nitrogen dynamics along the log bark decomposition continuum in a mesic old-growth boreal forest

  • Ivan Romashkin
  • Ekaterina ShorohovaEmail author
  • Ekaterina Kapitsa
  • Natalia Galibina
  • Ksenia Nikerova
Original Paper


Narrowing the uncertainties in carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics during decomposition of coarse woody debris (CWD) can significantly improve our understanding of forest ecosystem functioning. We examined C, N and pH dynamics in the least studied CWD component—tree bark in a 66-year-long decomposition chronosequence. The relative C concentration decreased by ca. 32% in pine bark, increased by ca. 18% in birch bark and remained stable in spruce and aspen bark. Nitrogen increased in bark of all tree species. In conifer bark, it increased along with epixylic succession. Over 45 years, the relative C/N ratio in bark decreased by 63 and 45% for coniferous and deciduous species, respectively. Bark pH did not change. Due to bark fragmentation, the total C and N amounts in bark of individual logs of aspen, birch, pine and spruce decreased at average rates of 0.03, 0.02, 0.26 and 0.05 year−1, and 0.02, 0.02, 0.03 and 0.03 year−1, respectively. At the forest stand level, the total amounts of C and N in log bark were 853 and 21 kg ha−1 or 11.2 and 45.5% of the C and N amounts stored in downed logs and ca. 2.3–3.8 and 2.2–2.4%, respectively, of total C and N amounts stored in forest litter. In boreal forests, decomposing log bark may act as a long-term source of N for wood-inhabiting communities.


Deadwood pH Coarse woody debris Decomposition Decay Nutrients 



The research was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (15-14-10023). We cordially thank the staff of Strict Nature Reserve “Kivach” for organizing the fieldwork on the territory. Anna Ruokolainen, Anastasia Mamay, Igor Kazartsev, Aleksey Polevoi and Nikita Baklazhenko helped with the sample plot and log selection and sampling. Helena Kushnevskaya provided the data on epixylic vegetation. Ilkka Vanha-Majamaa and two reviewers gave valuable comments on the manuscript. Carla Burton revised the language.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest Research Institute of the Karelian Research CentreRussian Academy of SciencePetrozavodskRussia
  2. 2.Saint-Petersburg State Forest Technical UniversitySaint-PetersburgRussia
  3. 3.Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)HelsinkiFinland

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