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Unifying elemental stoichiometry and metabolic theory in predicting species abundances

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Abstract

While metabolic theory predicts variance in population density within communities depending on population average body masses, the ecological stoichiometry concept relates density variation across communities to varying resource stoichiometry. Using a data set including biomass densities of 4959 populations of soil invertebrates across 48 forest sites we combined these two frameworks. We analyzed how the scaling of biomass densities with population-averaged body masses systematically interacts with stoichiometric variables. Simplified analyses employing either only body masses or only resource stoichiometry are highly context sensitive and yield variable and often misleading results. Our findings provide strong evidence that analyses of ecological state variables should integrate allometric and stoichiometric variables to explain deviations from predicted allometric scaling and avoid erroneous conclusions. In consequence, our study provides an important step towards unifying two prominent ecological theories, metabolic theory and ecological stoichiometry.

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