Marine Biology

, 166:163 | Cite as

Multiple zooplankton species alter the stoichiometric interactions between producer and consumer levels

  • Christoph PlumEmail author
  • Helmut Hillebrand
Original Paper


Planktonic primary consumers have been shown to strongly influence phytoplankton communities via top-down effects such as grazing and nutrient recycling. However, it remains unclear how changes in consumer richness may alter the stoichiometric constrains between producer and consumer assemblages. Here we test whether the stoichiometry of producer–consumer interactions is affected by the species richness of the consumer community (multispecies consumer assemblage vs single consumer species). Therefore, we fed a phytoplankton assemblage consisting of two flagellates and two diatom species reared under a 2 × 2 factorial combination of light and nitrogen supply to three planktonic consumer species in mono- and polycultures. As expected, phytoplankton biomass and C:nutrient ratios significantly increased with light intensity while nitrogen limitation resulted in reduced phytoplankton biomass and increasing phytoplankton C:N but lower N:P. Differences in phytoplankton stoichiometry were partly transferred to the consumer level, i.e., consumer C:N significantly increased with phytoplankton C:N. Consumer diversity significantly increased consumer biomass, resource use efficiency and nutrient uptake. In turn, consumer N:P ratios significantly decreased in consumer assemblages under high resource supply due to unequal changes in nutrient uptake. Consumer diversity further altered phytoplankton biomass, stoichiometry and species composition via increased consumption. Whether the effects of consumer diversity on phytoplankton and consumer performance were positive or negative strongly depended on the resource supply. In conclusion, the stoichiometric constraints of trophic interactions in multispecies assemblages cannot be predicted from monoculture traits alone, but consumer diversity effects are constrained by the resources supplied.



We thank Heike Rickels for technical support, as well as Mareen Möller and Samuel Nietzer for their support during the experiment. We additionally thank Maren Striebel, Stefanie Moorthi and Thomas Anderson for their competent and fruitful feedback on the manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript.


This study was funded by the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG Hi 848 7-1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Oldenburg, Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM)WilhelmshavenGermany
  2. 2.Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity (HIFMB) at the University of OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  3. 3.Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz-Centre for Polar and Marine Research [AWI]BremerhavenGermany

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