We have used femtosecond time-resolved reflectivity and luminescence downconversion techniques to study carrier relaxation, localization, and recombination in III-nitride semiconductors. Intensity dependent, frequency degenerate pump-probe reflectivity measurements employing near-bandgap excitation provide information about initial carrier localization, subsequent ultrafast heat generation due to nonradiative recombination or trapping in states deep in the bandgap, and photoinduced absorption associated with excitation of carriers from localized states to the bands. These phenomena and their experimental signatures are illustrated for Al0.25Ga0.75N and Al0.4Ga0.6N samples, in which the photoinduced change in reflectivity ΔR decays faster with decreasing intensity and changes sign, with faster decays for a given intensity in the higher Al content sample. This behavior suggests that in these cases the dynamics are governed by trapping at localized states associated with alloy fluctuations that become deeper and more numerous as the Al content increases. Within this context the sign change and subsequent temporal evolution of ΔR may be indicative of ultrafast heat generation and/or photoinduced absorption, depending upon A1 content. Nondegenerate pump-probe reflectivity experiments designed to separate the electronic contributions of the ΔR decays from the slower thermal components by using a sub-bandgap probe are used to measure carrier lifetime in GaN. Comparison with data obtained from frequency degenerate experiment sunder identical excitation conditions employing a near bandgap probe indicate that in the frequency degenerate case the decay times in ΔR are inflated due to the presence of an additional long-lived component with the same sign as the electronic contribution. The sign and power dependence of this slow decay suggest that it may be associated with screening of a surface electric field by carriers trapped in deep states. In addition, a new technique is presented that employs luminescence downconversion using an ultrashort gating pulse to enable the characterization of UV light emission from III-nitride semiconductors with subpicosecond temporal resolution. This technique also allows one to measure PL rise times and fast components of multiple decays in the subsequent time evolution of the PL intensity. Comparison of luminescence emission intensity and lifetime in GaN and AlGaN with ~0.1 Al content grown homoepitaxially on GaN templates with the same quantities measured in heteroepitaxial layers grown on sapphire indicate significant improvement in the homoepitaxial layers due to reduction in defect density. Fast (<15 ps) initial decays in the AlGaN are attributed to localization in shallow traps associated with alloy fluctuations, with subsequent recombination through gap states.