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

Robert W. Sterner, James J. Elser, Dag O. Hessen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

277 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-67
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1992


  • algae
  • nitrogen
  • nutrient
  • phosphorus
  • regeneration
  • zooplankton


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