Real-time monitoring of deadwood moisture in forests: lessons learned from an intensive case study
Attributes of deadwood in forests, including quantity, landscape position, and state of decay, influence numerous ecosystem processes such as wildfire behavior, tree regeneration, and nutrient cycling. Attributes of deadwood that vary over subdiurnal time steps, including moisture, have not been routinely measured despite the profound effects they have on ecosystem processes. To improve our understanding of forest deadwood subdiurnal moisture dynamics, we installed an intensive time-domain reflectometry (TDR) sensor network in a log and surrounding soil within a northern hardwood forest in New England, United States. Intensive monitoring during a partial growing season indicated that deadwood moisture was dynamic but similar to that of surrounding soils at 15-min intervals, especially during wetting and drying events. Field results and bench analysis of the sample log revealed numerous challenges when attempting to monitor deadwood moisture with TDR such as heterogeneous and (or) advanced decay confounding TDR moisture measurements in logs. An efficient, high-frequency TDR sensor network was demonstrated to record deadwood and soil moisture fluctuations, which provides an opportunity to refine our understanding of deadwood dynamics in the context of global change such as changing precipitation regimes.