Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Ecology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Sigrid Resh


Evan Kane


Soils are the largest sinks of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems. Soil organic carbon is important for ecosystem balance as it supplies plants with nutrients, maintains soil structure, and helps control the exchange of CO2 with the atmosphere. The processes in which wood carbon is stabilized and destabilized in forest soils is still not understood completely. This study attempts to measure early wood decomposition by different fungal communities (inoculation with pure colonies of brown or white rot, or the original microbial community) under various interacting treatments: wood quality (wood from +CO2, +CO2+O3, or ambient atmosphere Aspen-FACE treatments from Rhinelander, WI), temperature (ambient or warmed), soil texture (loamy or sandy textured soil), and wood location (plot surface or buried 15cm below surface). Control plots with no wood chips added were also monitored throughout the study. By using isotopically-labelled wood chips from the Aspen-FACE experiment, we are able to track wood-derived carbon losses as soil CO2 efflux and as leached dissolved organic carbon (DOC). We analyzed soil water for chemical characteristics such as, total phenolics, SUVA254, humification, and molecular size. Wood chip samples were also analyzed for their proportion of lignin:carbohydrates using FTIR analysis at three time intervals throughout 12 months of decomposition. After two years of measurements, the average total soil CO2 efflux rates were significantly different depending on wood location, temperature, and wood quality. The wood-derived portion soil CO2 efflux also varied significantly by wood location, temperature, and wood quality. The average total DOC and the wood-derived portion of DOC differed between inoculation treatments, wood location, and temperature. Soil water chemical characteristics varied significantly by inoculation treatments, temperature, and wood quality. After 12 months of decomposition the proportion of lignin:carbohydrates varied significantly by inoculation treatment, with white rot having the only average proportional decrease in lignin:carbohydrates. Both soil CO2 efflux and DOC losses indicate that wood location is important. Carbon losses were greater from surface wood chips compared with buried wood chips, implying the importance of buried wood for total ecosystem carbon stabilization. Treatments associated with climate change also had an effect on the level of decomposition. DOC losses, soil water characteristics, and FTIR data demonstrate the importance of fungal community on the degree of decomposition and the resulting byproducts found throughout the soil.