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Separating duff and litter for improved mass and carbon estimates

Chojnacky, David; Amacher, Michael; Gavazzi, Michael. 2009. Separating duff and litter for improved mass and carbon estimates. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 33(1): 29-34.

Mass and carbon load estimates, such as those from forest soil organic matter (duff and litter), inform forestry decisions. The US Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program systematically collects data nationwide: a down woody material protocol specifies discrete duff and litter depth measurements, and a soils protocol specifies mass and carbon of duff and litter combined. Sampling duff and litter separately via the soils protocol would increase accuracy of subsequent bulk density calculations and mass and carbon estimates that use them. At 57 locations in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, we measured depth, mass, and carbon of duff and litter separately. Duff depth divided by total depth varied from 20% to 56%, duff was 1-4 times denser than litter, and the calculated median carbon-to-mass ratio for hardwood duff (0.37) was less than that for litter (0.45). Using FIA depth measurements, we calculated mass from (1) our mean density values, (2) a mass versus depth regression model we developed, and (3) published density values. Model mass calculations were lower than those using our mean densities, possibly because the latter ignore density differences with layer thickness. Our model could provide valuable mass and carbon estimates if fully developed with future FIA data (duff and litter separated).

Keywords: organic soil horizon, down woody materials, soil survey

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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Separating duff and litter for improved mass and carbon estimates
Electronic Publish Date: November 25, 2009
Last Update:
November 25, 2009

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