Evolutionary-Economic Principles as Regulators of Soil Enzyme Production and Ecosystem Function

  • Steven D. AllisonEmail author
  • Michael N. Weintraub
  • Tracy B. Gartner
  • Mark P. Waldrop
Part of the Soil Biology book series (SOILBIOL, volume 22)


Extracellular enzymes allow microbes and plant roots to acquire resources from complex molecules, and thereby catalyze the rate-limiting step in soil carbon and nutrient cycling. We examine the hypothesis that extracellular enzyme producers are under evolutionary pressure to minimize the cost:benefit ratio of enzyme production. Consistent with this prediction, enzyme producers generally allocate more resources to enzymes that target limiting nutrients. Additionally, regulatory systems have evolved to increase enzyme production when substrates are abundant and available resources are scarce. Finally, theoretical models predict that producers should control enzyme diffusion rates and adopt strategies to reduce competition for enzymatic reaction products. Because extracellular enzymes regulate ecosystem processes, enzyme allocation could affect ecosystem responses to environmental change. In particular, shifts in enzyme allocation may result in negative feedbacks to changes in resource availability. Enzyme allocation patterns therefore link ecological and evolutionary constraints at the organismal level with ecosystem-level processes.


Enzyme Production Extracellular Enzyme Nutrient Demand Ecological Stoichiometry Extracellular Enzyme Production 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank B. Caldwell, J. Talbot, K. Treseder, and S. Perakis for valuable comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by a NOAA Climate and Global Change Fellowship to SDA and a workshop grant from the NSF-LTER Network Office.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven D. Allison
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael N. Weintraub
    • 2
  • Tracy B. Gartner
    • 3
  • Mark P. Waldrop
    • 4
  1. 1.University of California, IrvineIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biology and the Environmental Science ProgramCarthage CollegeKenoshaUSA
  4. 4.US Geological SurveyMenlo ParkUSA

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