The gas chromatograph as a respirometer.

Published online
01 Jan 1976
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Putman, R. J.

Publication language


Gases released from two decay systems (leaf litter, animal carrion) were analysed with a simple gas chromatograph. The apparatus provides a convenient method for assessing any metabolic activity that may not be expressed in terms of a release of carbon dioxide: the index of activity most commonly used.The chromatograph was further employed in respirometric studies of animals in the laboratory. Techniques are discussed and the system compared with more conventional laboratory respirometers.Respirometric measurements are sensitive and consistent, and results are compatible with those derived from other respirometers. It is suggested that the chromatograph has three main advantages over conventional techniques: (i) carbon metabolism not resulting in the release of carbon dioxide may be measured, (ii) oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production are measured independently and simultaneously, and (iii) estimation of respiratory rate and respiratory quotient is extremely rapid, minimizing stress of animals studied.Gas chromatography is presented as a technique potentially of great value to ecologists in a variety of fields.

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