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Am Nat. 2011 Aug;178(2):171-81. doi: 10.1086/660831.

Resource stoichiometry and consumers control the biodiversity-productivity relationship in pelagic metacommunities.

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Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment, Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Schleusenstrasse 1, 26382 Wilhelmshaven, Germany.


Recent theory suggests that both biodiversity and productivity are constrained by resource supply rates and ratios and that resource stoichiometry is the key to understanding the relationship between biodiversity and productivity. We experimentally tested this theory using pelagic metacommunities. We amended existing predictions by explicitly considering evenness as an aspect of biodiversity and including control of algal biomass by consumption in addition to competition. The metacommunities received a different phosphorus (P) supply and the three patches within each metacommunity differed in their nitrogen (N) supply, which created different N∶P ratios (2, 16, and 128). All patches were inoculated with a phytoplankton assemblage consisting of five species, and half of the metacommunities received two ciliate species as consumers. At the level of the entire metacommunity, algal biomass increased with increasing P supply, whereas species richness and evenness decreased with increasing P supply. Without consumers, resource use efficiency (RUE; realized biomass per unit of P) increased with increasing richness and evenness. Consumer presence reduced overall biomass and richness and precluded a correlation between RUE and biodiversity. At the patch level, local evenness correlated with higher RUE at both imbalanced N∶P ratios (2 and 128) but not at a balanced N∶P ratio. In conclusion, overall P supply constrained realized biomass and altered diversity, whereas resource stoichiometry shaped the relationship between biodiversity and RUE.

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