Randerson James T.

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Reconciling carbon-cycle concepts, terminology, and methods

2006-01-06 , Chapin, F. Stuart , Woodwell, G. M. , Randerson, James T. , Rastetter, Edward B. , Lovett, G. M. , Baldocchi, Dennis D. , Clark, D. A. , Harmon, Mark E. , Schimel, David S. , Valentini, R. , Wirth, C. , Aber, J. D. , Cole, Jonathan J. , Goulden, Michael L. , Harden, J. W. , Heimann, M. , Howarth, Robert W. , Matson, P. A. , McGuire, A. David , Melillo, Jerry M. , Mooney, H. A. , Neff, Jason C. , Houghton, Richard A. , Pace, Michael L. , Ryan, M. G. , Running, Steven W. , Sala, Osvaldo E. , Schlesinger, William H. , Schulze, E.-D.

Recent patterns and projections of climatic change have focused increased scientific and public attention on patterns of carbon (C) cycling and its controls, particularly the factors that determine whether an ecosystem is a net source or sink of atmospheric CO2. Net ecosystem production (NEP), a central concept in C-cycling research, has been used to represent two different concepts by C-cycling scientists. We propose that NEP be restricted to just one of its two original definitions—the imbalance between gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER), and that a new term—net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB)—be applied to the net rate of C accumulation in (or loss from; negative sign) ecosystems. NECB differs from NEP when C fluxes other than C fixation and respiration occur or when inorganic C enters or leaves in dissolved form. These fluxes include leaching loss or lateral transfer of C from the ecosystem; emission of volatile organic C, methane, and carbon monoxide; and soot and CO2 from fire. C fluxes in addition to NEP are particularly important determinants of NECB over long time scales. However, even over short time scales, they are important in ecosystems such as streams, estuaries, wetlands, and cities. Recent technological advances have led to a diversity of approaches to measuring C fluxes at different temporal and spatial scales. These approaches frequently capture different components of NEP or NECB and can therefore be compared across scales only by carefully specifying the fluxes included in the measurements. By explicitly identifying the fluxes that comprise NECB and other components of the C cycle, such as net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and net biome production (NBP), we provide a less ambiguous framework for understanding and communicating recent changes in the global C cycle. Key words: Net ecosystem production, net ecosystem carbon balance, gross primary production, ecosystem respiration, autotrophic respiration, heterotrophic respiration, net ecosystem exchange, net biome production, net primary production.