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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

The Temporal Distribution and Carbon Storage of Large Oak Wood in Streams and Floodplain Deposits


Richard Guyette

Daniel Dey

Michael Stambaugh

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:


We used tree-ring dating and 14C dating to document the temporal distribution and carbon storage of oak (Quercus spp.) wood in trees recruited and buried by streams and floodplains in northern Missouri, USA. Frequency distributions indicated that oak wood has been accumulating in Midwest streams continually since at least the late Pleistocene, about 14,000 calibrated radiocarbon years before present (cal. BP). The median residence time of an oak bole in the study streams was 3,515 years (n = 200). More than 30% of sampled oak wood entered the floodplain sediments and stream waters within the last 1,000 years, though very few samples dated to the last 150 years. Temporal variability in the record of oak recruitment to streams suggests a potentially strong influence from shifts in climate and fluvial processes, although other possible influences are addressed. Recent human impacts on streams have altered the dynamics of oak input and sequestered carbon with unknown long-term consequences. The long duration of carbon storage (mean age = 1,960 years) in this waterlogged environment appears to be strongly limited by decreasing wood density resulting from reductions in cell wall thickness. Lack of evidence of biotic degradation may imply that wood loss is largely due to abiotic hydrolyses. These findings document a continuous and long-term form of carbon storage that is sensitive to changes in climate and anthropogenic alteration of fluvial processes.