Through their metabolic cycle, humans and other organisms break down molecules that include carbon to temporarily obtain energy from the environment. New research from the University of Georgia takes this a step further, demonstrating that these organisms predictably affect the properties of the ecosystems around them.
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, builds off the longstanding metabolic theory of ecology, which demonstrates how the body size and temperature of an organism predictably directs metabolic rates of organisms.
“Previous literature shows how an individual organism contributes to the environment,” said the study’s lead author, John Schramski, a researcher in the College of Engineering. “This takes it a step further and shows that the metabolic activity of an ecosystem as measured by the residence time of carbon is the grand total of the metabolic activity of the organisms that comprise that ecosystem.”