Metabolic balance of the open sea

Karl, D.M., Law, E.A., Morris, P., Williams, P. le B. and Emerson, S. (2003) Metabolic balance of the open sea Nature, 426, (6962), p.32. (doi:10.1038/426032a).


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The rise of oxygenic photosynthesis nearly three billion years ago led to the accumulation of free oxygen and to the subsequent diversification of life on Earth; today, nearly half of all oxygen production derives from the photosynthetic activities of marine phytoplankton1. The conclusion that the open sea –– and therefore much of our planet's surface –– is in a net heterotrophic metabolic state2, 3, 4 is enigmatic and is a first-order question in the global carbon cycle, as discussed by del Giorgio and Duarte5. Our findings suggest that autotrophy in the open sea is episodic and decoupled from the more constant heterotrophic processes. Consequently, the metabolic balance of the open sea depends on proper space and timescale integration to achieve an ecological understanding of life in the sea.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1038/426032a
ISSNs: 0028-0836 (print)
Related URLs:
ePrint ID: 41832
Date :
Date Event
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2006
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2017 18:58
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