The Role of Douglas-fir and Wood Borers in the Decomposition of and Nutrient Release from Douglas-fir Logs

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Canadian Journal of Forest Research

Publication Date







NRC Research Press

First Page


Last Page



The role of insects in the decomposition of and nutrient release from Douglas-fir (Pseudotsugamenziesii (Mirb.) Franco) logs was studied in the Cedar River Watershed near Seattle, Washington. In April 1976, two large-diameter (average diameter at breast height, 41.7 cm) and two small-diameter (average diameter at breast height 26.3 cm) trees were felled. Three pairs of 91 cm length sections were cut from each tree. Half the sections were covered with window screening to prevent insect entry. The number of Douglas-fir beetle (Dendroctonuspseudotsugae Hpk.) attacks on each section, as well as the frass production, were monitored. After 10 years, decomposition rates were determined by mass loss. Douglas-fir beetles attacked large-diameter (23 attacks/m2) and small-diameter (27 attacks/m2) log sections at similar rates. Total frass production was also similar (33.6 g•m−2 for large logs and 32.6 g•m−2 for small logs). Large-diameter unscreened log sections tended to decompose faster (k = 0.050 per year) than small diameter unscreened logs (k = 0.026 per year) owing to the presence of wood borers (Monochamusscutellatus (Say)) in the larger logs. Screening of logs to reduce insect attack tended to reduce the rate of decomposition. A brown rotting fungus (Oligoporusplacentus (Fr.) Gilb. and Ryv.) fruited on unscreened large-diameter logs. Wood borers had a greater influence on log decomposition than Douglas-fir beetles. Frass produced by the Douglas-fir beetle contributed very little to litter fall and nutrient cycling. After 10 years there was a net release of N, P, K, Ca, and Mn from decomposing logs. Only Mg was immobilized in large-diameter logs.