Stoichiometry, Metabolism and Nutrient Limitation Across the Periodic Table in Natural Flowing-Water Chemostats

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Matthew J Cohen1, Rachel L Nifong2, Marie Juliette Kurz3, Wendell P Cropper1 and Jonathan B Martin4, (1)Univ Florida-SFRC, Gainesville, FL, United States, (2)University of Florida, School of Natural Resources and Environment, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States, (3)Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany, (4)University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States
Relative supplies of macro and micronutrients (C,N,P, various metals), along with light and water, controls ecosystem metabolism, trophic energy transfer and community structure. Here we test the hypothesis, using measurements from 41 spring-fed rivers in Florida, that tissue stoichiometry indicates autotroph nutrient limitation status. Low variation in discharge, temperature and chemical composition within springs, but large variation across springs creates an ideal setting to assess the relationship between limitation and resource supply. Molar N:P ranges from 0.4 to 90, subjecting autotrophs to dramatically different nutrient supply. Over this gradient, species-specific autotroph tissue C:N:P ratios are strictly homeostatic, and with no evidence that nutrient supply affects species composition. Expanding to include 19 metals and micronutrients revealed autotrophs are more plastic in response to micronutrient variation, particularly for iron and manganese whose supply fluxes are small compared to biotic demand. Using a Droop model modified to reflect springs conditions (benthic production, light limitation, high hydraulic turnover), we show that tissue stoichiometry transitions from homeostatic to plastic with the onset of nutrient limitation, providing a potentially powerful new tool for predicting nutrient limitation and thus eutrophication in flowing waters.