, Volume 8, Issue 7, pp 862–870 | Cite as

Prevalence of Heterotrophy and Atmospheric CO2 Emissions from Aquatic Ecosystems

  • Carlos M. DuarteEmail author
  • Yves T. Prairie


Recent, parallel developments in the study of freshwater and marine ecosystems have provided evidence that net heterotrophic systems (those in which respiratory organic matter destruction exeeds photosynthetic production) are more prevalent than hitherto believed, including most rivers, oligo- to mesotrophic lakes and some oligotrophic regions of the ocean. In parallel, these aquatic ecosystems have been shown to act as CO2 sources to the atmosphere, as expected from the heterotrophic nature of the communities they contain. The prevalence of net heterotrophic aquatic ecosystems indicates that they must receive significant inputs of organic carbon from adjacent ecosystems, assigning an important role to the lateral exchanges of carbon between land and aquatic ecosystems, between coastal and open ocean ecosystems, as well as internal redistribution within large or complex aquatic ecosystems in determining their metabolic status and the gaseous exchange with the atmosphere. The examination of the carbon budget of ecosystems requires, therefore, an integrative approach that accounts for exchanges between compartments often studied in isolation. These recent findings conform a new paradigm of the functioning of aquatic ecosystems, and the metabolic connectivity between ecosystems in the biosphere.


aquatic ecosystems metabolism heterotrophy respiration CO2 



This research is a contribution to projects EUROTROPH, funded by the European Commission (project EUROTROPH, ref. REN2001-4977-E), COCA (REN-2000-1471-C02), funded by the Spanish I+D program, and the “Integrating the aquatic with the terrestrial component of the global carbon budget” Working Group, supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center supported by NSF (Grant #DEB-94-21535), the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the State of California. Y.P. and C.M.D. were also supported by sabbatical fellowships from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. We thank J.J. Cole and three anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB)Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios AvanzadosSpain
  2. 2.Département des Sciences BiologiquesUniversité du Québec à Montréalsucc. Centre-VilleCanada

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