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Applications of Ecological Stoichiometry for Sustainable Acquisition of Ecosystem Services
Robert Ptacnik, G. Darrel Jenerette, Antonie M. Verschoor, Andrea F. Huberty, Angelo G. Solimini and Justin D. Brookes
Vol. 109, No. 1 (Apr., 2005), pp. 52-62
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3548613
Page Count: 11
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Human activities have differentially altered biogeochemical cycling at local, regional and global scales. We propose that a stoichiometric approach, examining the fluxes of multiple elements and the ratio between them, may be a useful tool for better understanding human effects on ecosystem processes and services. The different scale of impacts of the elements carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus and the different nature of their biogeochemical cycles, imply a large variation of their stoichiometric ratios in space and time and thus divergent impacts on biota. In this paper, we examine the effects of anthropogenic perturbations on nutrient ratios in ecosystems in two examples and one case study. Altered stoichiometry in agricultural systems (example 1) can affect not only crop yield and quality but also the interactions between plants and their pollinators, pests and pathogens. Human activities have also altered stoichiometry in coastal ecosystems (example 2). Increased N loading has especially lead to increased N:P and reduced Si:N ratios, with detrimental effects on ecosystem services derived from coastal pelagic food webs, such as fish yield and water quality. The terrestrial-aquatic linkage in stoichiometric alterations is illustrated with a case study, the Mississippi River watershed, where anthropogenic activities have caused stoichiometric changes that have propagated through the watershed into the northern Gulf of Mexico. Coupled with altered stoichiometric nutrient inputs are the inherent differences in variation and sensitivity of different ecosystems to anthropogenic disturbance. Furthermore, the connections among the components of a watershed may result in downstream cascades of disrupted functioning. Applying a multiple element perspective to understanding and addressing societal needs is a new direction for both ecological stoichiometry and sustainability.
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