Reduced light increases herbivore production due to stoichiometric effects of light/nutrient balance

J. Urabe, M. Kyle, W. Makino, T. Yoshida, T. Andersen, James Elser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Ecological common sense says that decreased solar energy should reduce herbivore production because of reduced energy flow through primary producers. However, a field experiment in a Phosphorus-limited lake showed that production of zooplankton herbivores was increased by shading. This paradoxical outcome was caused by a decoupling of producer carbon fixation and nutrient uptake under high light that reduced food quality for herbivores. At low nutrient supplies, shading increased nutrient contents relative to carbon within algal food, outweighing effects of decreased primary production. Thus, light/nutrient balance affects the degree of mismatch between primary producers and herbivores in nature, which in turn influences mass-transfer efficiencies along food chains. To predict how energy transfer efficiency and biological interactions will respond to perturbations, it is essential to take into account changes in light/nutrient balance and its effects on the stoichiometry of autotroph-herbivore interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-627
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2002


  • C:P ratio
  • Daphnia
  • Energy transfer efficiency
  • Food quality
  • Herbivores
  • Light and nutrient balance
  • Stoichiometry
  • Zooplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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