Soil acidity, ecological stoichiometry and allometric scaling in grassland food webs

Christian Mulder, James J. Elser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


The factors regulating the structure of food webs are a central focus of community and ecosystem ecology, as trophic interactions among species have important impacts on nutrient storage and cycling in many ecosystems. For soil invertebrates in grassland ecosystems in the Netherlands, the site-specific slopes of the faunal biomass to organism body mass relationships reflected basic biochemical and biogeochemical processes associated with soil acidity and soil C: N: P stoichiometry. That is, the higher the phosphorus availability in the soil, the higher, on average, the slope of the faunal biomass size spectrum (i.e., the higher the biomass of large-bodied invertebrates relative to the biomass of small invertebrates). While other factors may also be involved, these results are consistent with the growth rate hypothesis from biological stoichiometry that relates phosphorus demands to ribosomal RNA and protein production. Thus our data represent the first time that ecosystem phosphorus availability has been associated with allometry in soil food webs (supporting information available online). Our results have broad implications, as soil invertebrates of different size have different effects on soil processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2730-2738
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Allometry
  • Biological stoichiometry
  • Biomass-size spectra
  • Carbon
  • Land use change
  • Mass-abundance relationships
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Soil food webs


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