Linking the global carbon cycle to individual metabolism

A. P. Allen*, J. F. Gillooly, J. H. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

304 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

1. We 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. 2. The 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. 3. The 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. 4. The 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. 5. The 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 CO 2 flux. 6. These four sets of model predictions were tested using global compilations of data on C flux, storage and turnover in ecosystems. 7. Results 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-213
Number of pages12
JournalFunctional Ecology
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Acclimation
  • Allometry
  • Global change
  • Labile carbon
  • Metabolic theory

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