Primary Productivity of the Biosphere

Volume 14 of the series Ecological Studies pp 55-118

Methods of Assessing Terrestrial Productivty

  • Robert H. Whittaker
  • , Peter L. Marks

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Major contrasts between aquatic and terrestrial communities result from the short life spans and small accumulation of biomass in aquatic plants, and the longer life spans and substantial accumulation of biomass in land plants. The relationship can be expressed as the biomass accumulation ratio: the ratio of the standing crop or biomass present, to the annual net primary productivity. Such ratios are fractions of one in most aquatic communities, but range from one up to 50 or more in terrestrial communities. Significant differences in structure, function, and diversity of communities are related to this contrast between rapid turnover of the community’s organic matter in short-lived organisms, and accumulation of the productivity from several years in the complex structure of woody organisms (Whittaker and Woodwell, 1971b). The contrasts extend to the prevalent means of measuring productivity.


Allometry biomass gas exchange primary productivity productivity methods terrestrial ecosystems ecology