Global Patterns and drivers of ecosystem functioning in rivers and riparian zones




Costello, David
Isken, Mark
Woodward, Guy
Chauvet, Eric
Flecker, Alex
Acuna, Vecenc
Albarino, Ricardo
Alonso, Cecilia
Arango, Clay
Aroviita, Jukka


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River ecosystems receive and process vast quantities of terrestrial organic carbon, the fate of which depends strongly on microbial activity. Variation in and controls of processing rates, however, are poorly characterized at the global scale. In response, we used a peer-sourced research network and a highly standardized carbon processing assay to conduct a global-scale field experiment in greater than 1000 river and riparian sites. We found that Earth’s biomes have distinct carbon processing signatures. Slow processing is evident across latitudes, whereas rapid rates are restricted to lower latitudes. Both the mean rate and variability decline with latitude, suggesting temperature constraints toward the poles and greater roles for other environmental drivers (e.g., nutrient loading) toward the equator. These results and data set the stage for unprecedented “next-generation biomonitoring” by establishing baselines to help quantify environmental impacts to the functioning of ecosystems at a global scale.



global patterns, ecosystems, river ecosystems, biomes, riparian zones


This research was supported by awards to S.D.T. from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Science [Secretaría de Educación Superior Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (SENESCYT)] through the PROMETEO scholar exchange program, the Oakland University Research Development Grant program, and a Huron Mountain Wildlife Foundation research grant. N.A.G. was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.We are grateful for open-access-publishing funds from Kresge Library at Oakland University and Queen’s University Belfast.


Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International


Costello, D. M., Isken, M. W., Woodward, G., Chauvet, E., Flecker, A. S., Acuña, V., Albariño, R., Alonso, C., Arango, C., Aroviita, J., Barmuta, L. A., Bell, T. D. C., Boyero, L., Bruder, A., Bruesewitz, D. A., Callisto, M., Canhoto, C., Capps, K. A., Castillo, M. M., Patrick, C. . . . Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet. (2019). Global patterns and drivers of ecosystem functioning in rivers and riparian zones. Science Advances, 5(1), eaav0486-eaav0486.