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Climate‐driven changes in the ecological stoichiometry of aquatic ecosystems

van de Waal, Dedmer B, Verschoor, Antonie M, Verspagen, Jolanda MH, van Donk, Ellen, Huisman, Jef
Frontiers in ecology and the environment 2010 v.8 no.3 pp. 145-152
aquatic food webs, carbon, carbon dioxide, climate, elemental composition, freshwater, global warming, lakes, marine ecosystems, nutrient availability, nutrients, oceans, phytoplankton, species diversity, stoichiometry, zooplankton
Advances in ecological stoichiometry, a rapidly expanding research field investigating the elemental composition of organisms and their environment, have shed new light on the impacts of climate change on freshwater and marine ecosystems. Current changes in the Earth's climate alter the availability of carbon and nutrients in lakes and oceans. In particular, atmospheric CO₂ concentrations will rise to unprecedented levels by the end of this century, while global warming will enhance stratification of aquatic ecosystems and may thereby diminish the supply of nutrients into the surface layer. These processes enrich phytoplankton with carbon, but suppress nutrient availability. Phytoplankton with a high carbon‐to‐nutrient content provide poor‐quality food for most zooplankton species, which may shift the species composition of zooplankton and higher trophic levels to less nutrient‐demanding species. As a consequence, climate‐driven changes in plankton stoichiometry may alter the structure and functioning of entire aquatic food webs.