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A Possible Role for Heterotrophs in the Global Carbon Budget

G. R. Williams
Ecological Bulletins
No. 35, Environmental Biogeochemistry (1983), pp. 267-272
Published by: Oikos Editorial Office
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20112861
Page Count: 6
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A Possible Role for Heterotrophs in the Global Carbon Budget
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Abstract

Discussion of the role of the biota in determining atmospheric CO₂ levels has been largely concerned with autotrophic producers. Such organisms dominate in biomass and are most obviously affected by human activities such as tropical deforestation. A very simple 3-compartment model of the global terrestrial carbon cycle demonstrates that changes in atmospheric CO₂ can be independent of the magnitude of autotrophic biomass though not of the kinetic constants descriptive of primary production. The biomass of heterotrophic consumers and decomposers is an explicit term of positive sign in the equations describing the rate of change of $\text{p}_{\text{CO}_{2}}$. A decrease in heterotrophic biomass could generate the weak sink necessary to balance the CO₂ budget. Conversely, an increase in heterotrophic biomass could generate a net source which would have to be accommodated.

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