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Rúna Magnússon, UvA alumna of the Master's programme Earth Sciences and technician at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), won the third prize in the students’ presentations competition at the BIOGEOMON 2017 in Litomyšl, Czech Republic.

Rúna Magnússon
Rúna Magnússon

Her presentation, revolving around sequestration of carbon from coarse woody debris in forest soils, was based on a review article she published in 2016 and a PhD research proposal she is writing.

The BIOGEOMON, a renowned international symposium on ecosystem behaviour, was first held in the Czech Republic in the 1970’s and returned there for its 9th edition last August. Rúna Magnússon presented her work in a session focusing specifically on the role of dead wood in forest ecosystems. This session reflects the increasing acknowledgement that dead wood reserves in forests receive as crucial agents of forest nutrient cycling and biodiversity. Moreover, coarse woody debris can be a significant pool of carbon in forest ecosystems.

Carbon Sequestration

The research of Rúna Magnússon revolves around the question whether retention of Coarse Woody Debris can aid in the sequestration of carbon in forest soils, important to mitigate climate change. It has long been common practice to remove dead wood from forests and little is known about the long-term fate of carbon stored in coarse woody debris and its effects on carbon pools in forest soils.

She presented a review article that was published in Forest Ecology and Management in 2016, in collaboration with IBED researcher Albert Tietema, Mariet Hefting (Utrecht University), Karsten Kalbitz (TU Dresden) and Hans Cornelissen (Vrije Universiteit). The article integrates novel concepts from soil carbon stabilization with current knowledge on decomposition of coarse woody debris. 

Future Research

Together with Albert Tietema, Rúna Magnússon hopes to be able to continue her research as a PhD candidate, and a research proposal is currently under evaluation at the NWO (Dutch Science Foundation). Rúna Magnússon explains: “Actually measuring and monitoring carbon fluxes from coarse woody debris is challenging, as decomposition of wood takes places on much longer timescales than decomposition of leaf or needle material.

A collaboration is being set up with the LogLife project, a common garden field incubation experiment involving logs of various tree species on two contrasting sites in the Netherlands. By studying decomposition products from these sites and using state of the art analytical techniques, isotope tracers and soil incubations, the researchers hope to be able to provide the first direct quantitative evidence of the fate of carbon from dead wood in forest soils.

Publication details

RI Magnússon, A Tietema, JHC Cornelissen, MM Hefting, K. Kalbitz. 2016. Tamm Review: Sequestration of carbon from coarse woody debris in forest soils. Forest Ecology and Management 377, 1-15.