Aquatic ecosystems have the potential to release more carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere in a warmer climate than their land counterparts, says a study.
In the largest ever analysis of rates of respiration, scientists at Queen Mary, University of London, have compared the temperature dependence of respiration between aquatic and land ecosystems.
“In the carbon cycle, photosynthesis by plants absorbs carbon dioxide while respiration by animals returns CO2 to the atmosphere,” Gabriel Yvon-Durocher from Queen Mary, University of London, who led the study, was quoted as saying in the journal Nature.
In analysing annual rates of respiration across different ecosystems worldwide, they found that aquatic ecosystems had a stronger response to temperature changes than land ecosystems, said a university statement.
“Understanding how rates of respiration of entire ecosystems respond to changes in temperature will be crucial for forecasting future climate change as the planet warms in the coming decades,” said Yvon-Durocher.
“However, many aquatic ecosystems receive additional carbon from the land, which washes into lakes, rivers, estuaries and the sea from rainfall. This extra carbon means that respiration in aquatic ecosystems is not limited by photosynthesis and can have a stronger response to temperature than ecosystems on the land,” explained Yvon-Durocher.
“These findings demonstrate that aquatic ecosystems have a greater potential to release CO2 to the atmosphere as the climate warms, over long periods of time,” added Yvon-Durocher.