Stoichiometry of nutrient recycling by vertebrates in a tropical stream: linking species identity and ecosystem processes


  • Edited, N.B. Grimm

Michael J. Vanni E-mail:


Ecological stoichiometry offers a framework for predicting how animal species vary in recycling nutrients, thus providing a mechanism for how animal species identity mediates ecosystem processes. Here we show that variation in the rates and ratios at which 28 vertebrate species (fish, amphibians) recycled nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in a tropical stream supports stoichiometry theory. Mass-specific P excretion rate varied 10-fold among taxa and was negatively related to animal body P content. In addition, the N : P ratio excreted was negatively related to body N : P. Body mass (negatively related to excretion rates) explained additional variance in these excretion parameters. Body P content and P excretion varied much more among taxonomic families than among species within families, suggesting that familial composition may strongly influence ecosystem-wide nutrient cycling. Interspecific variation in nutrient recycling, mediated by phylogenetic constraints on stoichiometry and allometry, illustrates a strong linkage between species identity and ecosystem function.