Primary production

Global oceanic and terrestrial photoautotroph abundance, from September 1997 to August 2000 as well. As an estimate of autotroph biomass, it is only a rough indicator of primary-production potential, and not an actual estimate of it. Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and ORBIMAGE.
The maps above show Earth's monthly terrestrial net primary productivity from February 2000 to December 2013. The data come from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Values range from near 0 grams of carbon per square meter per day (tan) to 6.5 grams per square meter per day (dark green). A negative value means decomposition or respiration overpowered carbon absorption; more carbon was released to the atmosphere than the plants took in. In mid-latitudes, productivity obviously interacts with seasonal change, with productivity peaking in each hemisphere’s summer. The boreal forests of Canada and Russia experience high productivity in June and July and then a slow decline through fall and winter. Year-round, tropical forests in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia have high productivity, not surprising with the abundant sunlight, warmth, and rainfall. However, even in the tropics, there are variations in productivity over the course of the year. For example, the Amazon basin exhibits especially high productivity from roughly August through October - the period of the area's dry season. Because the trees have access to a plentiful supply of ground water that builds up in the rainy season, they actually grow better when the rainy skies clear and allow more sunlight to reach the forest.[1]

In ecology, primary production is the synthesis of organic compounds from atmospheric or aqueous carbon dioxide. It principally occurs through the process of photosynthesis, which uses light as its source of energy, but it also occurs through chemosynthesis, which uses the oxidation or reduction of inorganic chemical compounds as its source of energy. Almost all life on Earth relies directly or indirectly on primary production. The organisms responsible for primary production are known as primary producers or autotrophs, and form the base of the food chain. In terrestrial ecoregions, these are mainly plants, while in aquatic ecoregions algae predominate in this role. Ecologists distinguish primary production as either net or gross, the former accounting for losses to processes such as cellular respiration, the latter not.


The Calvin cycle of photosynthesis

Primary production is the production of chemical energy in organic compounds by living organisms. The main source of this energy is sunlight but a minute fraction of primary production is driven by lithotrophic organisms using the chemical energy of inorganic molecules.

Regardless of its source, this energy is used to synthesize complex organic molecules from simpler inorganic compounds such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). The following two equations are simplified representations of photosynthesis (top) and (one form of) chemosynthesis (bottom):

CO2 + H2O + light → CH2O + O2
CO2 + O2 + 4 H2S → CH2O + 4 S + 3 H2O

In both cases, the end point is a polymer of reduced carbohydrate, (CH2O)n, typically molecules such as glucose or other sugars. These relatively simple molecules may be then used to further synthesise more complicated molecules, including proteins, complex carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids, or be respired to perform work. Consumption of primary producers by heterotrophic organisms, such as animals, then transfers these organic molecules (and the energy stored within them) up the food web, fueling all of the Earth's living systems.