A global experiment suggests climate warming will not accelerate litter decomposition in streams but might reduce carbon sequestration

Boyero, Luz, Pearson, Richard G., Gessner, Mark O., Barmuta, Leon A., Ferreira, Verónica, Gracia, Manuel A.S., Dudgeon, David, Boulton, Andrew J., Callisto, Marcos, Chauvet, Eric, Helson, Julie E., Bruder, Andreas, Albariño, Ricardo J., Yule, Catherine M., Arunachalam, Muthukumarasamy, Davies, Judy N., Figueroa, Ricardo, Flecker, Alexander S., Ramirez, Alonso, Death, Russell, Iwata, Tomoya, Mathooko, Jude M., Mathuriau, Catherine, Goncalves, José F., Moretti, Marcelo, Jinggut, Tajang, Lamothe, Sylvian, M'Erimba, Charles, Ratnarajah, Lavenia, Schindler, Markus H., Castela, José, Buria, Leonardo, Cornejo, Aydeé, Villanueva, Verónica, and West, Derek C. (2011) A global experiment suggests climate warming will not accelerate litter decomposition in streams but might reduce carbon sequestration. Ecology Letters, 14 (3). pp. 289-294.

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Abstract

The decomposition of plant litter is one of the most important ecosystem processes in the biosphere and is particularly sensitive to climate warming. Aquatic ecosystems are well suited to studying warming effects on decomposition because the otherwise confounding influence of moisture is constant. By using a latitudinal temperature gradient in an unprecedented global experiment in streams, we found that climate warming will likely hasten microbial litter decomposition and produce an equivalent decline in detritivore-mediated decomposition rates. As a result, overall decomposition rates should remain unchanged. Nevertheless, the process would be profoundly altered, because the shift in importance from detritivores to microbes in warm climates would likely increase CO2 production and decrease the generation and sequestration of recalcitrant organic particles. In view of recent estimates showing that inland waters are a significant component of the global carbon cycle, this implies consequences for global biogeochemistry and a possible positive climate feedback.

Item ID: 20162
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: carbon cycle, climate change, detritivores, global analysis, latitudinal gradient, litter decomposition, microbial decomposers, streams, temperature
ISSN: 1461-0248
Funders: National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2012 02:24
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060204 Freshwater Ecology @ 75%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 25%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960807 Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 2
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