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Stoichiometric Constraints on Resource Use, Competitive Interactions, and Elemental Cycling in Microbial Decomposers

Mehdi Cherif and Michel Loreau
The American Naturalist
Vol. 169, No. 6 (June 2007), pp. 709-724
DOI: 10.1086/516844
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/516844
Page Count: 16
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Stoichiometric Constraints on Resource Use, Competitive Interactions, and Elemental Cycling in Microbial Decomposers
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Abstract

Abstract: Heterotrophic microbial decomposers, such as bacteria and fungi, immobilize or mineralize inorganic elements, depending on their elemental composition and that of their organic resource. This fact has major implications for their interactions with other consumers of inorganic elements. We combine the stoichiometric and resource‐ratio approaches in a model describing the use by decomposers of an organic and an inorganic resource containing the same essential element, to study its consequences on decomposer interactions and their role in elemental cycling. Our model considers the elemental composition of organic matter and the principle of its homeostasis explicitly. New predictions emerge, in particular, (1) stoichiometric constraints generate a trade‐off between the R* values of decomposers for the two resources; (2) they create favorable conditions for the coexistence of decomposers limited by different resources and with different elemental demands; (3) however, combined with conditions on species‐specific equilibrium limitation, they draw decomposers toward colimitation by the organic and inorganic resources on an evolutionary time scale. Moreover, we derive the conditions under which decomposers switch from consumption to excretion of the inorganic resource. We expect our predictions to be useful in explaining the community structure of decomposers and their interactions with other consumers of inorganic resources, particularly primary producers.

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