Prevalence of heterotrophy and atmospheric CO2 emissions from aquatic ecosystems

Carlos Duarte*, Yves T. Prairie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

285 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)862-870
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 1 2005


  • Aquatic ecosystems
  • CO
  • Heterotrophy
  • Metabolism
  • Respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology


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