Global analysis of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation of primary producers in freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems

James Elser, Matthew E S Bracken, Elsa E. Cleland, Daniel S. Gruner, W. Stanley Harpole, Helmut Hillebrand, Jacqueline T. Ngai, Eric W. Seabloom, Jonathan B. Shurin, Jennifer E. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2218 Scopus citations

Abstract

The cycles of the key nutrient elements nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) have been massively altered by anthropogenic activities. Thus, it is essential to understand how photosynthetic production across diverse ecosystems is, or is not, limited by N and P. Via a large-scale meta-analysis of experimental enrichments, we show that P limitation is equally strong across these major habitats and that N and P limitation are equivalent within both terrestrial and freshwater systems. Furthermore, simultaneous N and P enrichment produces strongly positive synergistic responses in all three environments. Thus, contrary to some prevailing paradigms, freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems are surprisingly similar in terms of N and P limitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1135-1142
Number of pages8
JournalEcology letters
Volume10
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

Keywords

  • Ecosystem
  • Meta-analysis
  • Nitrogen
  • Nutrient limitation
  • Phosphorus
  • Primary production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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    Elser, J., Bracken, M. E. S., Cleland, E. E., Gruner, D. S., Harpole, W. S., Hillebrand, H., Ngai, J. T., Seabloom, E. W., Shurin, J. B., & Smith, J. E. (2007). Global analysis of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation of primary producers in freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Ecology letters, 10(12), 1135-1142. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2007.01113.x