Delaying Wood Decomposition

The CC Lab is conducting several nationwide field experiments, including the “wood cookie” and “slash pile” experiments, to explore simple, cheap, and scalable treatments to slow wood decomposition. The wood cookie experiment monitors decomposition that occurs within a single block of wood. The slash pile experiment measures decomposition in stacks of wood, a typical layout after forest thinning operations. 

We are investigating several approaches that may slow or halt decomposition, including wood burial, submersion, above-ground suspension, and physical encasement (e.g. limewash coasting). In our slash pile experiments, we are exploring the effects of stacking wood in different configurations and covering with a waterproof layer. We periodically analyze samples from the field to determine rates of decomposition and the efficacy of each treatment.

Wood Experiments Timeline

With help from collaborators, we placed wood samples across seven field locations in different regions of the U.S. in the fall of 2020. The first collection of samples and analysis of results is ongoing as of Fall 2022. Subsequent sample collections are slated for 2024 and 2026.


Collect Year 2 results Analyze and interpret initial findings


Collect Year 4 data Analyze Year 4 data


Collect Year 6 data Analyze Year 6 data


Aggregate, analyze, and publish overall findings


Improve design for future wood carbon containment projects

Our team has been conducting field visits and collecting samples throughout 2022.

Collecting samples from Yale-Myers Forest. CC Lab 2022.
Collecting samples from Yale-Myers Forest. CC Lab 2022.

Risks & Risk Mitigation

Experimental timescales

Since this experiment aims to evaluate methods to delay the rate of wood decomposition and decomposition is already a relatively slow process, six years of field observations may not be enough to fully capture the long-term effects of various wood treatments. The experimental timeline may be too short to assess treatment effects on long-term decomposition.

Incomplete results

The long-term impact of treatments on wood decomposition is more directly relevant to the deployment of CC Lab wood carbon containment projects, but the experimental findings we use to make important decisions will be collected in the near-term and reflect only initial trends in decomposition. Findings from this experiment must therefore be interpreted carefully as they are used to guide project development. 

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