Unifying chemical and biological perspectives of carbon accumulation in the environment

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2021-03-16
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Repeta, Daniel J.
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10.1073/pnas.2100935118
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Abstract
Heterotrophic microorganisms are fiendishly clever at degrading all shapes and sizes of organic compounds to extract the energy they need to build biomass. Every year marine phytoplankton fix ∼50 billion tons of carbon dioxide into organic matter, and every year marine heterotrophs respire nearly all of this organic matter back to carbon dioxide (1). Nearly all, but not all. With each spin of this carbon cycle, a small amount of organic matter escapes respiration and becomes sequestered in seawater, sediments, and soils. Over time, this small “leak” in the system leads to the accumulation of a vast reservoir of carbon; some 5 × 1019 kg of organic matter are thought to be sequestered in sedimentary rocks (2). This carbon sequestration has immense consequences for life on Earth, as illustrated by the change in climate we are now experiencing due in part to the transfer of a minute portion of this inventory from geologic reservoirs into the atmosphere.
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© The Author(s), 2021. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Repeta, D. J. Unifying chemical and biological perspectives of carbon accumulation in the environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(11), (2021); e2100935118, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2100935118.
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Repeta, D. J. (2021). Unifying chemical and biological perspectives of carbon accumulation in the environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(11), e2100935118.
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