Unifying ecological stoichiometry and metabolic theory to predict production and trophic transfer in a marine planktonic food web

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016 May 19;371(1694):20150270. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0270.


Two ecological frameworks have been used to explain multitrophic interactions, but rarely in combination: (i) ecological stoichiometry (ES), explaining consumption rates in response to consumers' demand and prey's nutrient content; and (ii) metabolic theory of ecology (MTE), proposing that temperature and body mass affect metabolic rates, growth and consumption rates. Here we combined both, ES and MTE to investigate interactive effects of phytoplankton prey stoichiometry, temperature and zooplankton consumer body mass on consumer grazing rates and production in a microcosm experiment. A simple model integrating parameters from both frameworks was used to predict interactive effects of temperature and nutrient conditions on consumer performance. Overall, model predictions reflected experimental patterns well: consumer grazing rates and production increased with temperature, as could be expected based on MTE. With decreasing algal food quality, grazing rates increased due to compensatory feeding, while consumer growth rates and final biovolume decreased. Nutrient effects on consumer biovolume increased with increasing temperature, while nutrient effects on grazing rates decreased. Highly interactive effects of temperature and nutrient supply indicate that combining the frameworks of ES and MTE is highly important to enhance our ability to predict ecosystem functioning in the context of global change.

Keywords: consumer body mass; ecological stoichiometry; marine plankton; metabolic theory of ecology; microcosm experiment; temperature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Euplotes / physiology
  • Food Chain*
  • Microalgae / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Phytoplankton / physiology*
  • Rotifera / physiology
  • Zooplankton / physiology*