Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Elizabeth C. Adair


Global climate change will have substantial impacts on future forest dynamics motivating forest managers, landowners, and decision-makers to adopt new, adaptive approaches to forest management. For instance, extreme precipitation events, including severe droughts and high-rainfall events, are projected to alter regional hydrological cycles within the Northeast with potential implications for important ecosystem processes and forest functions. In response to the challenges posed by changing climates, novel adaptation frameworks have been suggested to assist forest adaptation to climate change; however, little is known about the potential cascading effects of global climate change and associated adaptive management regimes on key ecosystem processes, including forest decomposition.

In this thesis, we conducted two studies, one examining the effects of future extreme precipitation scenarios and another investigating various adaptive management strategies on leaf litter and wood decomposition within Northeastern forests. The first study investigated the effects of projected extreme precipitation scenarios on leaf litter and wood decomposition rates using a precipitation manipulation experiment. Results indicate that wood decomposition rates will be disrupted during prolonged droughts or intense precipitation events whereas leaf litter will not be significantly affected. The second study quantified the impacts of various adaptive management strategies applied to northern hardwood ecosystems on wood decomposition rates and nutrient dynamics across a gradient of increasing harvest severity. Wood stake mass loss did not broadly differ between adaptive management treatments but was negatively influenced by increasing harvest severity. Additionally, wood stake carbon, but not nitrogen, was greater in areas experiencing harvesting, but not nitrogen, suggesting that canopy gap formation with deadwood retention may enhance the potential for forest carbon sequestration, particularly in the short-term. Collectively, the results of this thesis suggest that shifts in future forest dynamics, due to changing climates and associated adaptive management regimes, will have significant implications for forest functions, such as forest carbon sequestration and cycling, by influencing wood decomposition.



Number of Pages

66 p.

Available for download on Friday, October 11, 2024