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vol. 167, no. 5 the american naturalist may 2006 Brown Ground: A Soil Carbon Analogue for the Green World Hypothesis?
 

Summary: vol. 167, no. 5 the american naturalist may 2006
Synthesis
Brown Ground: A Soil Carbon Analogue for the Green World Hypothesis?
Steven D. Allison*
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of
California, Irvine, California 92697
Submitted October 17, 2005; Accepted February 10, 2006;
Electronically published March 23, 2006
abstract: For many decades, ecologists have asked what prevents
herbivores from consuming most of the plant biomass in terrestrial
ecosystems, or "Why is the world green?" Here I ask the analogous
question for detritivores: what prevents them from degrading most
of the organic material in soils, or "Why is the ground brown?" For
fresh plant detritus, constraints on decomposition closely parallel
constraints on herbivory: both herbivore and decomposer popula-
tions may be controlled by plant tissue chemistry from the bottom
up and predators from the top down. However, the majority of soil
carbon is not plant litter but carbon that has been consumed by
detritivores and reprocessed into humic compounds with complex
and random chemical structures. This carbon persists mainly because

  

Source: Allison, Steven D. - Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine

 

Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology