, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 49-67

First online:

Stoichiometric relationships among producers, consumers and nutrient cycling in pelagic ecosystems

  • Robert W. SternerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, The University of Texas at Arlington
  • , James J. ElserAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Arizona State University
  • , Dag O. HessenAffiliated withNorwegian Institute for Water Research

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Most ecosystem models consolidate members of food-webs, e.g. species, into a small number of functional components. Each of these is then described by a single state variable such as biomass. When a multivariate approach incorporating multiple substances within components is substituted for this univariate one, a ‘stoichiometric’ model is formed. Here we show that the Nitrogen:Phosphorus ratio within zooplankton herbivores varies substantially intraspecifically but not intraspecifically. By using stoichiometric theory and recent measurements of the N:P ratio within different zooplankton taxa, we calculate large differences in ratios of nutrients recycled by different zooplankton species. Finally, we demonstrate that N:P stoichiometry can successfully account for shifts in N- and P-limitation previously observed in whole-lake experiments. Species stoichiometry merges food-web dynamics with biogeochemical cycles to yield new insights.

Key words

algae nitrogen nutrient phosphorus regeneration zooplankton