Biosimplicity via stoichiometry: the evolution of food-web structure and processes

James Elser, Dag O. Hessen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Food webs are among the most complex entities under study in modern biology. But what if major features of their structure and dynamics were the product of a relatively few simple rules? This chapter describes perspectives arising from the field of biological stoichiometry to argue that major features of food web function in ecosystems are the outcome of a relatively straightforward combination of chemical principles (mass balance, stoichiometric combination) of entities experiencing the Darwinian selective algorithm. It argues that the fate of energy or carbon in food webs, to a major extent, is governed by the availability and packaging of key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Indeed, phenomena such as transfer efficiency, length of food chains, community composition, degree of omnivory, and the relative importance of grazing versus detrital pathways all appear to have a strong stoichiometric component and the underlying rules generating these phenomena involve fundamental evolutionary trade-offs and coevolutionary dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAquatic Food Webs: An ecosystem approach
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780191713828, 9780198564836
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007

Fingerprint

Food Chain
stoichiometry
food webs
omnivores
food chain
packaging
Product Packaging
grazing
Phosphorus
Ecosystem
phosphorus
Biological Sciences
Nitrogen
Carbon
ecosystems
carbon
energy
nutrients
nitrogen
Food

Keywords

  • Coevolutionary dynamics
  • Complexity
  • Ecological stoichiometry
  • Evolutionary trade-offs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

Biosimplicity via stoichiometry : the evolution of food-web structure and processes. / Elser, James; Hessen, Dag O.

Aquatic Food Webs: An ecosystem approach. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Elser, James ; Hessen, Dag O. / Biosimplicity via stoichiometry : the evolution of food-web structure and processes. Aquatic Food Webs: An ecosystem approach. Oxford University Press, 2007.
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