The impact of global warming may well be alike across ecosystems, irrespective of local environmental conditions and species, suggests a new study.
A research team, from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, at Queen Mary, University of London, went to Iceland to study a set of geo-thermally heated streams.
The streams provided scientists with a unique environment to conduct their research; they were able to isolate the effects of temperature from other confounding variables found in nature.
"The streams in Iceland are all very similar, in terms of their physical and chemical environment, but maintain very different temperatures to each other all year round," the study's lead author, Dr Daniel Perkins was quoted as saying.
"This enabled us to explore how temperature, both past and present, affects the rate at which respiration responds to temperature in ecosystems," he said.
Dr Perkins also said that when the team exposed the organisms found in streams to a range of temperatures "the rate at which carbon was respired increased with temperature as expected, but surprisingly, rate of increase was consistent across streams which differed in average temperature by as much as 20 degree C".
"Our findings demonstrate that the intrinsic temperature sensitivity of respiration is the same across a diverse range of organisms, adapted to markedly different temperatures," said study co-author Dr Gabriel Yvon-Durocher.
"This result is important because it will help us build more accurate models to predict how rates of carbon dioxide emission from ecosystem will respond to the temperature increases forecast in the coming decades.
"Our results shed light on the temperature sensitivity of respiration over time scales of days to weeks, real differences between ecosystems may be apparent over longer time scales (e.g. years to decades), and progress in understanding these long-term responses will be key to predicting the future feedbacks between ecosystems and the climate," he said.
The research was published in the journal Global Change Biology.