Weggler K, Dobbertin M, Jüngling E, Kaufmann E, Thürig E (2012) Dead wood volume to dead wood carbon: the issue of conversion factors. European Journal of Forest Research, 131 (5): 1423-1438. [10.1007/s10342-012-0610-0]



Requirements for emission reporting under the Kyoto protocol demand an estimate of the dead wood carbon pool in forests. The volume of dead wood consists of coarse woody debris, smaller woody debris and dead roots. The measurement of dead wood volume was included in the most recent National Forest Inventory in Switzerland. To convert dead wood volume into carbon two conversion factors are required: (a) carbon (C) concentration and (b) wood density. So far internationally accepted default values for C concentration (50%) and for wood density (density of alive trees) were used as default values to estimate dead wood carbon, since local measurements were lacking. However, in a field study at 34 sites in Switzerland, the C concentration and density of CWD from Picea abies and Fagus sylvatica of four decay classes were measured recently. The results showed that C concentration in CWD differed significantly between species but did not change due to decay class. The density of CWD decreased significantly with an increase in decay class and it also differed between species. The decrease in CWD density was more pronounced for F. sylvatica than for P. abies . We assessed correlations between climate attributes and CWD density using regression analysis. The modeled densities and measured C concentrations were then expanded with the help of CWD volume data from the NFI3. Spruce CWD and thus spruce CWD carbon is much more abundant in Swiss forests than beech CWD carbon. The majority of spruce CWD is located in the Alps and Pre-Alps. The CWD volume from P. abies was 10 times higher than that from F. sylvatica . Thus, changes in conversion factors for P. abies CWD affected the overall estimate of dead wood carbon in Swiss forests much more than changes in conversion factors for F. sylvatica CWD. Current improvements in CWD conversion factors decreased the estimated amount of spruce CWD carbon by 23.1% and that of beech by 47.6%. The estimated amount of CWD carbon in Swiss forests is decreased by 31%. Since improved estimation methods are currently not applied to smaller woody debris and dead root material, the estimated amount of dead wood carbon is only reduced by 15%. Improving conversion factors for all dead wood fractions would presumably decrease the amount of dead wood carbon by additional 16%.

LWF Classification

Network: LWF, Sites: Alptal;Beatenberg;Bettlachstock;Chironico;Davos;Isone;Lantsch;Lausanne;Neunkirch;Othmarsingen;Schänis;Vordemwald, Category: ISI,