Ecological stoichiometry (more broadly referred to as Biological stoichiometry) considers how the balance of energy and elements influences living systems. Similar to chemical stoichiometry, ecological stoichiometry is founded on constraints of mass balance as they apply to organisms and their interactions in ecosystems. Specifically, how does the balance of energy and elements affect and how is this balance affected by organisms and their interactions. Concepts of ecological stoichiometry have a long history in ecology with early references to the constraints of mass balance made by Liebig, Lotka, and Redfield. These earlier concepts have been extended to explicitly link the elemental physiology of organisms to their food web interactions and ecosystem function.
Most work in ecological stoichiometry focuses on the interface between an organism and its resources. This interface, whether it is between plants and their nutrient resources or large herbivores and grasses, is often characterized by dramatic differences in the elemental composition of each part. The difference, or mismatch, between the elemental demands of organisms and the elemental composition of resources leads to an elemental imbalance. Consider termites, which have a tissue carbon:nitrogen ratio (C:N) of about 5 yet consume wood with a C:N ratio of 300-1000. Ecological stoichiometry primarily asks:
Elemental imbalances arise for a number of physiological and evolutionary reasons related to the differences in the biological make up of organisms, such as differences in types and amounts of macromolecules, organelles, and tissues. Organisms differ in the flexibility of their biological make up and therefore in the degree to which organisms can maintain a constant chemical composition in the face of variations in their resources. Variations in resources can be related to the types of needed resources, their relative availability in time and space, and how they are acquired. The ability to maintain internal chemical composition despite changes in the chemical composition and availability of resources is referred to as "stoichiometric homeostasis". Like the general biological notion of homeostasis, elemental homeostasis refers to the maintenance of elemental composition within some biologically ordered range. Photoautotrophic organisms, such as algae and vascular plants, can exhibit a very wide range of physiological plasticity in elemental composition and thus have relatively weak stoichiometric homeostasis. In contrast, other organisms, such as multicellular animals, have close to strict homeostasis and they can be thought of as having distinct chemical composition. For example, carbon to phosphorus ratios in the suspended organic matter in lakes (i.e., algae, bacteria, and detritus) can vary between 100 and 1000 whereas C:P ratios of Daphnia, a crustacean zooplankton, remain nearly constant at 80:1. The general differences in stoichiometric homeostasis between plants and animals can lead to large and variable elemental imbalances between consumers and resources.
Ecological stoichiometry seeks to discover how the chemical content of organisms shapes their ecology. Ecological stoichiometry has been applied to studies of nutrient recycling, resource competition, animal growth, and nutrient limitation patterns in whole ecosystems. The Redfield ratio of the world's oceans is one very famous application of stoichiometric principles to ecology. Ecological stoichiometry also considers phenomena at the sub-cellular level, such as the P-content of a ribosome, as well as phenomena at the whole biosphere level, such as the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere.
To date the research framework of ecological stoichiometry stimulated research in various fields of biology, ecology, biochemistry and human health, including human microbiome research, cancer research, food web interactions, population dynamics, ecosystem services, productivity of agricultural crops and honeybee nutrition.
Bacterivores are free-living, generally heterotrophic organisms, exclusively microscopic, which obtain energy and nutrients primarily or entirely from the consumption of bacteria. Many species of amoeba are bacterivores, as well as other types of protozoans. Commonly, all species of bacteria will be prey, but spores of some species, such as Clostridium perfringens, will never be prey, because of their cellular attributes.Copiotroph
A copiotroph is an organism found in environments rich in nutrients, particularly carbon. They are the opposite to oligotrophs, which survive in much lower carbon concentrations.
Copiotrophic organisms tend to grow in high organic substrate conditions. For example, copiotrophic organisms grow in Sewage lagoons. They grow in organic substrate conditions up to 100x higher than oligotrophs.Daphnia pulex
Daphnia pulex is the most common species of water flea. It has a cosmopolitan distribution: the species is found throughout the Americas, Europe and Australia. It is a model species, and was the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced.Decomposer
Decomposers are organisms that break down dead or decaying organisms, and in doing so, they carry out the natural process of decomposition. Like herbivores and predators, decomposers are heterotrophic, meaning that they use organic substrates to get their energy, carbon and nutrients for growth and development. While the terms decomposer and detritivore are often interchangeably used, detritivores must ingest and digest dead matter via internal processes while decomposers can directly absorb nutrients through chemical and biological processes hence breaking down matter without ingesting it. Thus, invertebrates such as earthworms, woodlice, and sea cucumbers are technically detritivores, not decomposers, since they must ingest nutrients and are unable to absorb them externally.Dominance (ecology)
Ecological dominance is the degree to which a taxon is more numerous than its competitors in an ecological community, or makes up more of the biomass.
Most ecological communities are defined by their dominant species.
In many examples of wet woodland in western Europe, the dominant tree is alder (Alnus glutinosa).
In temperate bogs, the dominant vegetation is usually species of Sphagnum moss.
Tidal swamps in the tropics are usually dominated by species of mangrove (Rhizophoraceae)
Some sea floor communities are dominated by brittle stars.
Exposed rocky shorelines are dominated by sessile organisms such as barnacles and limpets.Ecological threshold
Ecological threshold is the point at which a relatively small change or disturbance in external conditions causes a rapid change in an ecosystem. When an ecological threshold has been passed, the ecosystem may no longer be able to return to its state by means of its inherent resilience . Crossing an ecological threshold often leads to rapid change of ecosystem health. Ecological threshold represent a non-linearity of the responses in ecological or biological systems to pressures caused by human activities or natural processes.Critical load, tipping point and regime shift are examples of other closely related terms.Feeding frenzy
In ecology, a feeding frenzy occurs when predators are overwhelmed by the amount of prey available. For example, a large school of fish can cause nearby sharks, such as the lemon shark, to enter into a feeding frenzy. This can cause the sharks to go wild, biting anything that moves, including each other or anything else within biting range. Another functional explanation for feeding frenzy is competition amongst predators. This term is most often used when referring to sharks or piranhas. It has also been used as a term within journalism.Landscape epidemiology
Landscape epidemiology draws some of its roots from the field of landscape ecology. Just as the discipline of landscape ecology is concerned with analyzing both pattern and process in ecosystems across time and space, landscape epidemiology can be used to analyze both risk patterns and environmental risk factors. This field emerges from the theory that most vectors, hosts and pathogens are commonly tied to the landscape as environmental determinants control their distribution and abundance. In 1966, Evgeniy Pavlovsky introduced the concept of natural nidality or focality, defined by the idea that microscale disease foci are determined by the entire ecosystem. With the recent availability of new computing technologies such as geographic information systems, remote sensing, statistical methods including spatial statistics and theories of landscape ecology, the concept of landscape epidemiology has been applied analytically to a variety of disease systems, including malaria, hantavirus, Lyme disease and Chagas' disease.Lithoautotroph
A lithoautotroph or chemolithoautotroph is a microbe which derives energy from reduced compounds of mineral origin. Lithoautotrophs are a type of lithotrophs with autotrophic metabolic pathways. Lithoautotrophs are exclusively microbes; macrofauna do not possess the capability to use mineral sources of energy. Most lithoautotrophs belong to the domain Bacteria, while some belong to the domain Archaea. For lithoautotrophic bacteria, only inorganic molecules can be used as energy sources. The term "Lithotroph" is from Greek lithos (λίθος) meaning "rock" and trōphos (τροφοσ) meaning "consumer"; literally, it may be read "eaters of rock". Many lithoautotrophs are extremophiles, but this is not universally so.
Lithoautotrophs are extremely specific in using their energy source. Thus, despite the diversity in using inorganic molecules in order to obtain energy that lithoautotrophs exhibit as a group, one particular lithoautotroph would use only one type of inorganic molecule to get its energy.Mesotrophic soil
Mesotrophic soils are soils with a moderate inherent fertility. An indicator of soil fertility is its base status, which is expressed as a ratio relating the major nutrient cations (calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium) found there to the soil's clay percentage. This is commonly expressed in hundredths of a mole of cations per kilogram of clay, i.e. cmol (+) kg−1 clay.Microecosystem
Microecosystems can exist in locations which are precisely defined by critical environmental factors within small or tiny spaces.
Such factors may include temperature, pH, chemical milieu, nutrient supply, presence of symbionts or solid substrates, gaseous atmosphere (aerobic or anaerobic) etc.Mycotroph
A mycotroph is a plant that gets all or part of its carbon, water, or nutrient supply through symbiotic association with fungi. The term can refer to plants that engage in either of two distinct symbioses with fungi:
Many mycotrophs have a mutualistic association with fungi in any of several forms of mycorrhiza. The majority of plant species are mycotrophic in this sense. Examples include Burmanniaceae.
Some mycotrophs are parasitic upon fungi in an association known as myco-heterotrophy.Organotroph
An organotroph is an organism that obtains hydrogen or electrons from organic substrates. This term is used in microbiology to classify and describe organisms based on how they obtain electrons for their respiration processes. Some organotrophs such as animals and many bacteria, are also heterotrophs. Organotrophs can be either anaerobic or aerobic.
Antonym: Lithotroph, Adjective: Organotrophic.Overpopulation
Overpopulation occurs when a species' population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological niche. It can result from an increase in births (fertility rate), a decline in the mortality rate, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. When overpopulation occurs, individuals limit available resources to survive.
The change in number of individuals per unit area in a given locality is an important variable that has a significant impact on the entire ecosystem.Planktivore
A planktivore is an aquatic organism that feeds on planktonic food, including zooplankton and phytoplankton.Population cycle
A population cycle in zoology is a phenomenon where populations rise and fall over a predictable period of time. There are some species where population numbers have reasonably predictable patterns of change although the full reasons for population cycles is one of the major unsolved ecological problems. There are a number of factors which influence population change such as availability of food, predators, diseases and climate.Recruitment (biology)
In biology, especially marine biology, recruitment occurs when a juvenile organism joins a population, whether by birth or immigration, usually at a stage whereby the organisms are settled and able to be detected by an observer.There are two types of recruitment: closed and open.In the study of fisheries, recruitment is "the number of fish surviving to enter the fishery or to some life history stage such as settlement or maturity".Relative abundance distribution
In the field of ecology, the relative abundance distribution (RAD) or species abundance distribution describes the relationship between the number of species observed in a field study as a function of their observed abundance. The graphs obtained in this manner are typically fitted to a Zipf–Mandelbrot law, the exponent of which serves as an index of biodiversity in the ecosystem under study.Species homogeneity
In ecology, species homogeneity is a lack of biodiversity. Species richness is the fundamental unit in which to assess the homogeneity of an environment. Therefore, any reduction in species richness, especially endemic species, could be argued as advocating the production of a homogenous environment.