A new generation of ecosystem-level analyses and emerging genomic information hold promise for improving our mechanistic understanding of and, ultimately, ability to scale important carbon cycle and climate change processes. Key crosscutting areas of interest are new multifactor ecosystem manipulations that analyze climate change effects on carbon cycling at the ecosystem level and the potential of genomic data to inform representations of critical biological processes and parameters (e.g., mechanisms, rate constants, and submodels of metabolism and regulation). Such genomics-enabled advances are necessary for removing the "black box" of understanding surrounding the biology element of ecosystems. For example, research must fill significant knowledge gaps in the complex processes controlling soil carbon dynamics. Particularly needed are the rate constants and detailed mechanistic knowledge of the processing of plant litter to long-lived soil organic matter by soil mesofauna and heterotrophic microorganisms. Current model representations of these processes are highly parameterized using rate constants from radiolabeled (14C) from biomass-decomposition experiments in microcosms that lack mechanistic detail and links to actual environmental conditions.
Credit or Source: Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. science.energy.gov/ber/
U.S. DOE. 2008. Carbon Cycling and Biosequestration: Report from the March 2008 Workshop, DOE/SC-108, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. (p. 20) (website)