|Krüger, I; Muhr, J; Hartl-Meier, C; Schulz, C; Borken, W: Age determination of coarse woody debris with radiobarbon analysis and dendrochronological cross-dating, European Journal of Forest Research , 133, 931-939 (2014), doi:10.1007/s10342-014-0810-x
To study the decay of coarse woody debris (CWD) in forest ecosystems, it is necessary to determine the time elapsed since tree death, which is difficult at advanced decay stages. Here, we compare two methods for age determination of CWD logs, dendrochronological cross-dating and radiocarbon analysis of the outermost tree ring. The methods were compared using samples from logs of European beech, Norway spruce and Sessile oak decomposing in situ at three different forest sites. For dendrochronological cross-dating, we prepared wood discs with diameters of 10–80 cm. For radiocarbon analysis, cellulose was isolated from shavings of the outermost tree rings. There was an overall good agreement between time of death determined by the two methods with median difference of 1 year. The uncertainty of age determination by the radiocarbon approach did not increase with decreasing carbon density, despite incomplete separation of chitin from the extracted cellulose. Fungal chitin has the potential to alter the radiocarbon signature of tree rings as the carbon for chitin synthesis originates from different sources. Significant correlations between year of tree death and carbon density of wood were found for beech and spruce, but not for oak due to relatively small decreases in carbon density within 50–60 years. Total residence times of CWD were calculated from these correlations and revealed 24 years for beech and 62 years for spruce. The uncertainty of total residence times results mainly from huge natural variability in carbon density of CWD rather than uncertainty in the age determination. The results suggest that both methods are suitable for age determination of CWD.
Keywords: Radiocarbon, Coarse woody debris, CWD, dendrochronological cross-dating, cellulose extraction, time of tree death