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vol.72 issue3  suppl.Biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial ecosystems of the Caatinga BiomeThe southern Brazilian grassland biome: soil carbon stocks, fluxes of greenhouse gases and some options for mitigation author indexsubject indexarticles search
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Brazilian Journal of Biology

Print version ISSN 1519-6984


BUSTAMANTE, MMC et al. Potential impacts of climate change on biogeochemical functioning of Cerrado ecosystems. Braz. J. Biol. [online]. 2012, vol.72, n.3, suppl., pp.655-671. ISSN 1519-6984.

The Cerrado Domain comprises one of the most diverse savannas in the world and is undergoing a rapid loss of habitats due to changes in fire regimes and intense conversion of native areas to agriculture. We reviewed data on the biogeochemical functioning of Cerrado ecosystems and evaluated the potential impacts of regional climate changes. Variation in temperature extremes and in total amount of rainfall and altitude throughout the Cerrado determines marked differences in the composition of species. Cerrado ecosystems are controlled by interactions between water and nutrient availability. In general, nutrient cycles (N, P and base cations) are very conservative, while litter, microbial and plant biomass are important stocks. In terms of C cycling, root systems and especially the soil organic matter are the most important stocks. Typical cerrado ecosystems function as C sinks on an annual basis, although they work as source of C to the atmosphere close to the end of the dry season. Fire is an important factor altering stocks and fluxes of C and nutrients. Predicted changes in temperature, amount and distribution of precipitation vary according to Cerrado sub-regions with more marked changes in the northeastern part of the domain. Higher temperatures, decreases in rainfall with increase in length of the dry season could shift net ecosystem exchanges from C sink to source of C and might intensify burning, reducing nutrient stocks. Interactions between the heterogeneity in the composition and abundance of biological communities throughout the Cerrado Domain and current and future changes in land use make it difficult to project the impacts of future climate scenarios at different temporal and spatial scales and new modeling approaches are needed.

Keywords : Savanna; nutrient cycling; fire; land use; climate change; carbon.

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