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Data from: Belowground community turnover accelerates the decomposition of standing dead wood

Cite this dataset

Bradford, Mark (2021). Data from: Belowground community turnover accelerates the decomposition of standing dead wood [Dataset]. Dryad.


Standing dead trees (snags) decompose more slowly than downed dead wood and provide critical habitat for many species. The rate at which snags fall therefore influences forest carbon dynamics and biodiversity. Fall rates correlate strongly with mean annual temperature, presumably because warmer climates facilitate faster wood decomposition and hence degradation of the structural stability of standing wood. These faster decomposition rates coincide with turnover from fungal-dominated wood decomposer communities in cooler forests to co-domination by fungi and termites in warmer regions. A key question for projecting forest dynamics is therefore whether temperature effects on wood decomposition arise primarily because warmer conditions facilitate faster decomposer metabolism, or are also influenced indirectly by belowground community turnover (e.g. termites exert additional influence beyond fungal-plus-bacterial mediated decomposition). To test between these possibilities, we simulate standing dead trees with untreated, wooden posts and follow them in the field across five years at 12 sites, before measuring buried, soil-air interface and aerial post sections to quantify wood decomposition and organism activities. High termite activities at the warmer sites are associated with rates of post fall that are 3-times higher than at the cooler sites. Termites primarily consume buried wood, with decomposition rates greatest where termite activities are highest. However, where higher microbial and termite activities co-occur, they appear to first compensate for one another and then slow decomposition rates at their highest activities, suggestive of interference competition. If the range of microbial- and termite co-domination of wood decomposer communities expands under climate warming, our data suggest that expansion will accelerate snag fall with consequent effects on forest carbon cycling and biodiversity in forests previously dominated by microbial decomposers.


These are field-collected data and samples, that were tthen additionally processed in the lab. Full methods are provided in the submitted paper.

Usage notes

Data and code, along with the ReadMe file 'BradfordetalPostDataREADME.txt', were submitted to the Dryad data repository February 13th 2021 for private peer review. On paper acceptance by the journal Ecology, on May 27th 2021, the data were unchanged and the code was updated and then all files made fully accessible.

Bradford MA, Maynard DS, Crowther TW, Frankson PT, Mohan JE, Steinrueck C, Veen, GF, King JR, Warren RJ. Belowground community turnover accelerates the decomposition of standing dead wood. ECOLOGY, accepted.

The persons associated with the code and data have dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of their rights to the code and data worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. You can copy, distribute and use the code and data, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

If you have queries about the data or code please contact Mark A. Bradford at Yale University, USA (

The code file is named ‘BradfordetalPostCode.txt’ and contains all R (the statistical freeware package) code used for data analysis in the manuscript. Analytical steps are explained ahead of each section of code within the code file. 

The data files are named ‘BradfordetalPostData1.csv’ and ‘BradfordetalPostData2.csv’. A full description of the original purpose of these data, as well as the methods used to collect them, are described in the manuscript listed above.

Data in the BradfordetalPostData1.csv file are organized across 79 columns, and 540 rows of data, with a single header row with the column title.

Data in the BradfordetalPostData2.csv file are organized across 79 columns, and 180 rows of data, with a single header row with the column title.

Header row names, units and description are fully described for both data sets in BradfordetalMetaData.csv 

We use ‘NA’ for missing data.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1457614

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1926482