Environmental stoichiometry mediates phytoplankton diversity effects on communities’ resource use efficiency and biomass
Gerhard, Miriam; Schlenker, Alexandra; Hillebrand, Helmut; Striebel, Maren (2021), Environmental stoichiometry mediates phytoplankton diversity effects on communities’ resource use efficiency and biomass, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.s1rn8pk8w
Positive biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) relationships are predicted to increase in strength when high environmental variability allows for complementarity between resource use strategies in diverse communities. This environmental variability can be represented by spatial or temporal variation in nutrient ratios, but resource use efficiency (RUE) and therefore biomass build up of primary producers might be restricted when nutrient ratios are highly imbalanced (i.e., limitation by one nutrient and beyond optimal ratios for growth). Whereas the linkages between ecosystem functioning, diversity and nutrient availability are theoretically well understood, we lack experimental evidence on how phytoplankton diversity affects resource use and biomass under variable nutrient ratios (N:P ratios).
Combining a mesocosm and a microcosm experiment we tested diversity effects on ecosystem functioning by exposing a species diversity gradient generated by the loss of rare species in a natural community to different N:P ratios (uniform vs a gradient). The N:P supply ratio gradient also allowed us to evaluate responses across balanced and imbalanced ratios.
We found that increased species diversity led to increased community RUE when supplied a gradient of N:P ratios; but restricted to the highest diversity level. However, diversity did not affect RUE under uniform nutrient ratios. The overall phytoplankton biomass and carbon:nutrient ratios responses to diversity reflected the patterns detected for RUE. Contrary to theoretical predictions, RUE was maintained under highest N:P supply ratios (extreme phosphorous limitation) suggesting that imbalanced N:P ratios do not necessarily decrease function. Thus, we showed that the nutrient context influences diversity effects on RUE and biomass.
Synthesis. Overall, our results suggest that the effect of rare phytoplankton species losses on community RUE and biomass can be compensated by the persistent species when nutrient ratios are uniform, but leads to decreases in ecosystem functioning under variable nutrient ratios. This work provides a first attempt for testing interactions between the nutrient context (including concentrations and ratios) and the diversity of (natural) communities experimentally, which is conceptually understood but poorly tested for phytoplankton.
All methods are described in detail in Gerhard et al. 2021. Environmental stoichiometry mediates phytoplankton diversity effects on communities’ resource use efficiency and biomass.
Uruguayan Agency of Investigation and Innovation (ANII), Award: POS_EXT_2015_1_122989
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, Award: 91645020
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: STR 1383/6-1, SPP 1704