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Warming alters the metabolic balance of ecosystems

Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, J. Iwan Jones, Mark Trimmer, Guy Woodward and Jose M. Montoya
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
Vol. 365, No. 1549, The effects of climate change on biotic interactions and ecosystem services (12 July 2010), pp. 2117-2126
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25699229
Page Count: 10
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Warming alters the metabolic balance of ecosystems
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Abstract

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 feedback 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 per cent. 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.

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