Linking the global carbon cycle to individual metabolism

Authors


†Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. Present address: National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA. E-mail: drewa@nceas.ucsb.edu

Summary

  • 1We present a model that yields ecosystem-level predictions of the flux, storage and turnover of carbon in three important pools (autotrophs, decomposers, labile soil C) based on the constraints of body size and temperature on individual metabolic rate.
  • 2The model predicts a 10 000-fold increase in C turnover rates moving from tree- to phytoplankton-dominated ecosystems due to the size dependence of photosynthetic rates.
  • 3The model predicts a 16-fold increase in rates controlled by respiration (e.g. decomposition, turnover of labile soil C and microbial biomass) over the temperature range 0–30 °C due to the temperature dependence of ATP synthesis in respiratory complexes.
  • 4The model predicts only a fourfold increase in rates controlled by photosynthesis (e.g. net primary production, litter fall, fine root turnover) over the temperature range 0–30 °C due to the temperature dependence of Rubisco carboxylation in chloroplasts.
  • 5The difference between the temperature dependence of respiration and photosynthesis yields quantitative predictions for distinct phenomena that include acclimation of plant respiration, geographic gradients in labile C storage, and differences between the short- and long-term temperature dependence of whole-ecosystem CO2 flux.
  • 6These four sets of model predictions were tested using global compilations of data on C flux, storage and turnover in ecosystems.
  • 7Results support the hypothesis that the combined effects of body size and temperature on individual metabolic rate impose important constraints on the global C cycle. The model thus provides a synthetic, mechanistic framework for linking global biogeochemical cycles to cellular-, individual- and community-level processes.

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