Warming Alters the Metabolic Balance of Ecosystems

Yvon-Durocher, Gabriel; Jones, J. Iwan; Trimmer, Mark; Woodward, Guy; Montoya, Jose M.. 2010 Warming Alters the Metabolic Balance of Ecosystems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (B), 365 (1549). 2117-2126.

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The carbon cycle modulates climate change, via the regulation of atmospheric CO2. and it represents one of the most important services provided by ecosystems. However considerable uncertainties remain concerning potential feedbacks between the biota and the climate. In particular, it is unclear how global warming will affect the metabolic balance between the photosynthetic fixation and respiratory release of CO2 at the ecosystem scale. Here we present a combination of experimental field data from freshwater mesocosms, and theoretical predictions derived from the metabolic theory of ecology to investigate whether warming will alter the capacity of ecosystems to absorb CO2. Our manipulative experiment simulated the temperature increases predicted for the end of the century and revealed that ecosystem respiration increased at a faster rate than primary production, reducing carbon sequestration by 13%. These results confirmed our theoretical predictions based on the differential activation energies of these two processes. Using only the activation energies for whole ecosystem photosynthesis and respiration we provide a theoretical prediction that accurately quantified the precise magnitude of the reduction in carbon sequestration observed experimentally. We suggest the combination of whole-ecosystem manipulative experiments and ecological theory is one of the most promising and fruitful research areas to predict the impacts of climate change on key ecosystem services.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 2 - Ecohydrological Processes > WA - 2.4 - Quantify the importance of food web structure and trophic interactions ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
ISSN: 0962-8436
Additional Keywords: global warming, carbon sequestration, carbon cycle, metabolic theory, gross primary production, ecosystem respiration
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
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Date made live: 05 Dec 2011 13:54 +0 (UTC)

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