Global carbon cycling
“On the basis of the experiment, we were able to model the role that deadwood plays in the global carbon cycle,” explains Professor Rupert Seidl, Ecosystem Dynamics and Forest Management at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). “According to the report, some 10.9 gigatons of carbon are released from deadwood worldwide every year. In this context, part of the carbon is absorbed into the soil, while another part is released into the atmosphere. The amount of carbon released from deadwood is equivalent to roughly 115 percent of the emissions from fossil fuels,” adds Dr Werner Rammer, a scientist at TUM, who played the leading role in the global calculations. Decomposition in temperate forests, including the open park forests in Israel and in boreal forests is considerably slower than in tropical forests.
“At 93 percent, tropical forests contribute disproportionately to this result due to their high wood mass combined with their rapid decomposition processes. Insects account for almost one third of wood decomposition, although this is mostly confined to the tropics. In forests of northern and temperate latitudes, including forests in northern Israel, the contributions made by insects are small, though,” explains PD Dr Sebastian Seibold, leading author of the study.
The effects of global change
“The study highlights the role played by deadwood in the global carbon cycle and the functional importance of insects in the decomposition of wood. In this way, we are closing another gap in the global modelling of carbon cycles,” explains Professor Jörg Müller, Head of Research at the Bavarian Forest National Park and at the Ecological Station of the JMU Würzburg.
“At a time of global change, we can see some dramatic declines in biodiversity and changes in climate. This study has demonstrated that both climate change and the loss of insects have the potential to alter the decomposition of wood, and therefore, the carbon and nutrient cycles worldwide,” explains PD Dr. Seibold.
Seibold et al (2021): The contribution of insects to global forest deadwood decomposition. Nature, 597(7874): 77-81.