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


Boyero, L and Pearson, RG and Gessner, MO and Barmuta, LA and Ferrerira, V and Graca, MAS and Dudgeon, D and Boulton, AJ and Callisto, M and Chauvet, E and Helson, JE and Bruder, A and Albarino, RJ and Yule, CM and Arunachalam, M and Davies, JN and Figueroa, R and Flecker, AS and Ramirez, A and Death, RG and Iwata, T and Mathooko, JM and Mathuriau, C and Goncalves Jr, JF and Moretti, MS and Jinggut, T and Lamothe, S and M'Erimba, C and Ratnarajah, L and Schindler, MH and Castela, J and Buria, LM and Cornejo, A and Villanueva, VD and West, DC, 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. ISSN 1461-023X (2011) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01578.x


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 Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:carbon cycle, climate change, detritivores, global analysis, latitudinal gradient, litter decomposition, microbial decomposers, streams, temperature
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Freshwater ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management
Objective Field:Fresh, ground and surface water biodiversity
UTAS Author:Barmuta, LA (Associate Professor Leon Barmuta)
UTAS Author:Ratnarajah, L (Dr Lavenia Ratnarajah)
ID Code:74095
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:235
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2011-11-11
Last Modified:2017-11-10
Downloads:8 View Download Statistics

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