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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Animating the Carbon Cycle


Oswald Schmitz

Peter Raymond

James Estes

Werner Kurz

Gordon Holtgrieve

Mark Ritchie

Daniel Schindler

Amanda Spivak

Rod Wilson

Mark Bradford

Villy Christensen

Linda Deegan

Victor Smetacek

Michael Vanni

Christopher Wilmers

+10 more
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:


Understanding the biogeochemical processes reg- ulating carbon cycling is central to mitigating atmospheric CO2 emissions. The role of living organisms has been accounted for, but the focus has traditionally been on contributions of plants and microbes. We develop the case that fully ''animating'' the carbon cycle requires broader consideration of the functional role of animals in mediating biogeochemical processes and quanti- fication of their effects on carbon storage and exchange among terrestrial and aquatic reservoirs and the atmosphere. To encourage more hypothesis-driven experimental research that quantifies animal effects we discuss the mechanisms by which animals may affect carbon ex- changes and storage within and among ecosystems and the atmosphere. We illustrate how those mechanisms lead to multiplier effects whose magnitudes may rival those of more traditional carbon storage and exchange rate estimates currently used in the carbon budget. Many animal species are already directly managed. Thus improved quantitative understanding of their influence on carbon budgets may create opportunity for management and policy to identify and implement new options for mitigating CO2 re- lease at regional scales.