Letter | Published:

Reconciling the temperature dependence of respiration across timescales and ecosystem types

Nature volume 487, pages 472476 (26 July 2012) | Download Citation

Abstract

Ecosystem respiration is the biotic conversion of organic carbon to carbon dioxide by all of the organisms in an ecosystem, including both consumers and primary producers. Respiration exhibits an exponential temperature dependence at the subcellular and individual levels1, but at the ecosystem level respiration can be modified by many variables2,3,4 including community abundance and biomass5, which vary substantially among ecosystems6. Despite its importance for predicting the responses of the biosphere to climate change, it is as yet unknown whether the temperature dependence of ecosystem respiration varies systematically between aquatic and terrestrial environments. Here we use the largest database of respiratory measurements yet compiled to show that the sensitivity of ecosystem respiration to seasonal changes in temperature is remarkably similar for diverse environments encompassing lakes, rivers, estuaries, the open ocean and forested and non-forested terrestrial ecosystems, with an average activation energy similar to that of the respiratory complex3 (approximately 0.65 electronvolts (eV)). By contrast, annual ecosystem respiration shows a substantially greater temperature dependence across aquatic (approximately 0.65 eV) versus terrestrial ecosystems (approximately 0.32 eV) that span broad geographic gradients in temperature. Using a model5 derived from metabolic theory7, these findings can be reconciled by similarities in the biochemical kinetics of metabolism at the subcellular level, and fundamental differences in the importance of other variables besides temperature—such as primary productivity and allochthonous carbon inputs—on the structure of aquatic and terrestrial biota at the community level.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    , , , & Effects of size and temperature on metabolic rate. Science 293, 2248–2251 (2001)

  2. 2.

    et al. Global convergence in the temperature sensitivity of respiration at ecosystem level. Science 329, 838–840 (2010)

  3. 3.

    , , & A novel approach for identifying the true temperature sensitivity from soil respiration measurements. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 22, GB4009 (2008)

  4. 4.

    Terrestrial carbon-cycle feedback to climate warming. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Evol. System. 38, 683–712 (2007)

  5. 5.

    , & Linking the global carbon cycle to individual metabolism. Funct. Ecol. 19, 202–213 (2005)

  6. 6.

    Patterns in the fate of production in plant communities. Am. Nat. 154, 449–468 (1999)

  7. 7.

    , , , & Toward a metabolic theory of ecology. Ecology 85, 1771–1789 (2004)

  8. 8.

    & Mixed-Effects Models in S and S-PLUS (Springer, 2000)

  9. 9.

    et al. Terrestrial gross carbon dioxide uptake: global distribution and covariation with climate. Science 329, 834–838 (2010)

  10. 10.

    & Global patterns of carbon-dioxide emissions from soils. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 9, 23–36 (1995)

  11. 11.

    , , & Linking planktonic biomass and metabolism to net gas fluxes in northern temperate lakes. Ecology 80, 1422–1431 (1999)

  12. 12.

    & Biomass distribution in freshwater plankton communities. Am. Nat. 146, 135–152 (1995)

  13. 13.

    & Biomass distribution in marine planktonic communities. Limnol. Oceangr. 42, 1353–1363 (1997)

  14. 14.

    et al. Net ecosystem carbon exchange in three contrasting Mediterranean ecosystems—the effect of drought. Biogeosciences 4, 791–802 (2007)

  15. 15.

    & Respiration in Aquatic Ecosystems (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005)

  16. 16.

    et al. Scaling metabolism from organisms to ecosystems. Nature 423, 639–642 (2003)

  17. 17.

    , & Acclimation of the respiration photosynthesis ratio to temperature: insights from a model. Glob. Change Biol. 5, 615–622 (1999)

  18. 18.

    , , , & Warming alters the metabolic balance of ecosystems. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 365, 2117–2126 (2010)

  19. 19.

    Regaudie-de-Gioux, A. &. Duarte, C. M. Temperature dependence of planktonic metabolism in the ocean. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 26, GB1015 (2012)

  20. 20.

    , , & Scaling the metabolic balance of the oceans. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 103, 8739–8744 (2006)

  21. 21.

    et al. Volatile organic compound emissions in relation to plant carbon fixation and the terrestrial carbon budget. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 16, 1126 (2002)

  22. 22.

    & The CO2 balance of unproductive aquatic ecosystems. Science 281, 234–236 (1998)

  23. 23.

    et al. Looking deeper into the soil: biophysical controls and seasonal lags of soil CO2 production and efflux. Ecol. Appl. 20, 1569–1582 (2010)

  24. 24.

    , & Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology (Springer, 2002)

  25. 25.

    Evidence from chronosequence studies for a low carbon-storage potential of soils. Nature 348, 232–234 (1990)

  26. 26.

    et al. Recent patterns and mechanisms of carbon exchange by terrestrial ecosystems. Nature 414, 169–172 (2001)

  27. 27.

    R. Development Core Team. R: A language and environment for statistical computing (2011)

  28. 28.

    Improved approximations to scaling relationships for species, populations, and ecosystems across latitudinal and elevational gradients. J. Theor. Biol. 227, 525–534 (2004)

Download references

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank J. Cole, M. Pace, M. Reichstein and D. Baldocchi for helpful comments that greatly improved the manuscript. M. Mahecha, C. S. Hopkinson, E. Smith, C. Gudasz, C. Solomon, E. Gaiser, E. de Eyto, C.-Y. Chiu, D. Hamilton, S. Hendricks, R. Adrian, K. Rose, D. Bruesewitz, D. Richardson, M. Van de Bogert, FLUXNET and GLEON are gratefully acknowledged for supplying raw data. G.Y.-D., M.T. and G.W. acknowledge the support of the Natural Environment Research Council, UK (grant NE/F004753/1) for financial support. P.A.S. was funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research, Natural Sciences grant 10-085238 and the Danish Centre for Lake Restoration (CLEAR). J.P. acknowledges the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence program (project number 218094) for funding. J.M.M. was supported by a Ramon y Cajal Fellowship (RYC-892 2008-03664), a Ministry of Economy grant (CGL2010-20091) and Generalitat de Catalunya grant (2009SGR142).

Author information

Author notes

    • Gabriel Yvon-Durocher
    •  & Andrew P. Allen

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. School of Biological & Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 4NS, UK

    • Gabriel Yvon-Durocher
    • , Matteo Dossena
    • , Mark Trimmer
    •  & Guy Woodward
  2. Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ. UK

    • Gabriel Yvon-Durocher
  3. Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, University of West Florida, 11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, Florida 32514, USA

    • Jane M. Caffrey
  4. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra I-21027, Italy

    • Alessandro Cescatti
  5. Département des sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Province of Québec, H2X 3X8, Canada

    • Paul del Giorgio
  6. Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), Pg. Marítim de la Barceloneta, 37-49 E-08003 Barcelona, Spain

    • Josep M. Gasol
    •  & José M. Montoya
  7. University of Helsinki Department of Forest Sciences, PO Box 27, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

    • Jukka Pumpanen
  8. Aarhus University, Institute of Bioscience, Frederiksborgvej 399PO Box 358, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark

    • Peter A. Staehr
  9. Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia

    • Andrew P. Allen

Authors

  1. Search for Gabriel Yvon-Durocher in:

  2. Search for Jane M. Caffrey in:

  3. Search for Alessandro Cescatti in:

  4. Search for Matteo Dossena in:

  5. Search for Paul del Giorgio in:

  6. Search for Josep M. Gasol in:

  7. Search for José M. Montoya in:

  8. Search for Jukka Pumpanen in:

  9. Search for Peter A. Staehr in:

  10. Search for Mark Trimmer in:

  11. Search for Guy Woodward in:

  12. Search for Andrew P. Allen in:

Contributions

G.Y.-D. and A.P.A. analysed the data, wrote the manuscript, and devised the research. A.C., J.M.C., M.D., P.d.G., J.M.G., J.M.M., J.P., P.A.S., M.T. and G.W. commented on the manuscript. G.Y.-D., A.P.A., P.d.G., J.M.M. and M.T. discussed ideas. A.C., J.M.C., M.D., P.d.G., J.P., M.T. and P.A.S. provided raw data.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gabriel Yvon-Durocher.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Text and Data; Supplementary Figures S1.1, S1.2, S8, S9, S10; Supplementary Tables S1.1, S1.2, S5, S7 and Supplementary References.

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Data

    This file contains the Supplementary Appendix.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11205

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.