Understanding processes underlying forest carbon dynamics is essential for accurately predicting the outcomes of non-stand-replacing disturbance in intermediate-age forests. We quantified net ecosystem production (NEP), aboveground net primary production (ANPP), and the dynamics of major carbon (C) pools before and during the decade following invasive insect defoliation and prescribed fires in oak- and pine-dominated stands in the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, USA. Gross ecosystem production (GEP) recovered during the year following defoliation at the oak stand, but tree mortality increased standing dead and coarse woody debris, and ecosystem respiration (Re) accounted for >97% of GEP. As a result, NEP averaged only 22% of pre-disturbance values during the decade following defoliation. At the pine stand, GEP also recovered to pre-disturbance values during the year following understory defoliation by gypsy moth and two prescribed fires, while Re was nearly unaffected. Overall, defoliation and tree mortality at the oak stand drove a decadal-scale reduction in NEP that was twofold greater in magnitude than C losses associated with prescribed fires at the pine stand. Our study documents the outcomes of different non-stand-replacing disturbances, and highlights the importance of detrital dynamics and increased Re in long-term measurements of forest C dynamics following disturbance in intermediate-age forests.