Ecology Letters (2011)
There is growing consensus that the growth of herbivorous consumers is frequently limited by more than one nutrient simultaneously. This understanding, however, is based primarily on theoretical considerations and the applicability of existing concepts of co-limitation has rarely been tested experimentally. Here, we assessed the suitability of two contrasting concepts of resource limitation, i.e. Liebig’s minimum rule and the multiple limitation hypothesis, to describe nutrient-dependent growth responses of a freshwater herbivore (Daphnia magna) in a system with two potentially limiting nutrients (cholesterol and eicosapentaenoic acid). The results indicated that these essential nutrients interact, and do not strictly follow Liebig’s minimum rule, which consistently overestimates growth at co-limiting conditions and thus is not applicable to describe multiple nutrient limitation of herbivorous consumers. We infer that the outcome of resource-based modelling approaches assessing herbivore population dynamics strongly depends on the applied concept of co-limitation.