Woody materials decayed more rapidly in a first order stream than in larger streams in eastern Quebec, Canada. The rate of annual mass loss (k) was highest (k=1.20) for alder wood chips in a first order stream and lowest (k=0.04) for black spruce wood chips in a ninth order stream. Decay rates for woody materials in a first order stream were inversely related to their initial lignin to nitrogen ratios. In larger streams, decay rates of woody materials were inversely related to their initial lignin concentrations. A number of quantifiable relationships were found to exist between the initial lignin and nitrogen contents of woody materials and the nitrogen dynamics of decaying wood.