Pelagic C:N:P stoichiometry in a eutrophied lake: Responses to a whole-lake food-web manipulation

James J. Elser, Robert W. Sterner, Amy E. Galford, Thomas H. Chrzanowski, David L. Findlay, Kenneth H. Mills, Michael J. Paterson, Michael P. Stainton, David W. Schindler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Changes in the ecological stoichiometry of C, N, and P in the pelagic zone are reported from a whole-lake manipulation of the food web of Lake 227, an experimentally eutrophied lake at the Experimental Lakes Area, Canada. Addition of northern pike eliminated populations of planktivorous minnows by the third year (1995) after pike introduction, and in the fourth year after pike addition (1996), a massive increase in the abundance of the large-bodied cladoceran Daphnia pulicaria occurred. Accompanying this increase in Daphnia abundance, zooplankton community N:P declined, seston concentration and C:P ratio decreased, and dissolved N and P pools increased. During peak abundance, zooplankton biomass comprised a significant proportion of total epilimnetic phosphorus (greater than 30%). During the period of increased Daphnia abundance, concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (TIN) increased more strongly than dissolved phosphorus (TDP), and thus TIN:TDP ratios were elevated. Sedimentation data indicated that increased grazing led to greatly reduced residence times of C, N, and especially P in the water column during 1996. Finally, previously dominant N-fixing cyanobacteria were absent during 1996. Our results show that strong effects of food-web structure can occur in eutrophic lakes and that stoichiometric mechanisms play a potentially important role in generating these effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-307
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2000


  • Carbon
  • Cascading trophic interactions
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Ecological stoichiometry
  • Ecosystem experimentation
  • Food webs
  • Nitrogen
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Phosphorus
  • Plankton


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