Seminar: Estefania Munoz


  • Date: Nov 30, 2023
  • Time: 02:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Estefania Munoz
  • (Trumbore department) ONLINE ONLY
Increased atmospheric CO2 and the transit time of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems
The response of terrestrial ecosystems to increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations is controversial and not yet fully understood, with previous large‐scale forest manipulation experiments exhibiting contrasting responses. Although there is consensus that increased CO2 has a relevant effect on instantaneous processes such as photosynthesis and transpiration, there are large uncertainties regarding the fate of extra assimilated carbon in ecosystems. Filling this research gap is challenging because tracing the movement of new carbon across ecosystem compartments involves the study of multiple processes occurring over a wide range of timescales, from hours to millennia. We posit that a comprehensive quantification of the effect of increased CO2 must answer two interconnected questions: How much and for how long is newly assimilated carbon stored in ecosystems? Therefore, we propose that the transit time distribution of carbon is the key concept needed to effectively address these questions. Here, we show how the transit time distribution of carbon can be used to assess the fate of newly assimilated carbon and the timescales at which it is cycled in ecosystems. We use as an example a transit time distribution obtained from a tropical forest and show that most of the 60% of fixed carbon is respired in less than 1 year; therefore, we infer that under increased CO2, most of the new carbon would follow a similar fate unless increased CO2 would cause changes in the rates at which carbon is cycled and transferred among ecosystem compartments. We call for a more frequent adoption of the transit time concept in studies seeking to quantify the ecosystem response to increased CO2.

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