Ecological stoichiometry of functional traits in a colonial harmful cyanobacterium

Zhipeng Duan, Xiao Tan (Corresponding author), Hans W. Paerl, D.B. van de Waal (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Trait-based approaches provide a mechanistic framework crossing scales from cellular traits to community dynamics, while ecological stoichiometry applies first principles to understand how the balance of energy and elements shape ecological interactions. However, few studies have explicitly linked both frameworks. In this study, we tested the stoichiometric regulation of a number of carbon (C) based (e.g., extracellular polysaccharides and colony formation) and nitrogen (N) containing traits (i.e., chlorophyll a, phycocyanin, and gas vesicle content) in cyanobacteria in laboratory experiments and in the field. We exposed the cosmopolitan colony forming freshwater cyanobacterium Microcystis sp. in batch experiments to light, N and phosphorus (P) limitation, and enhanced CO2 levels, and assessed the regulation of these traits. Cyanobacterial traits followed stoichiometrically predictable patterns, where N containing traits increased with cellular N content, and decreased with increasing C : N ratios. C-based traits increased with cellular C content and C : N ratios under nutrient, particularly N, limitation. The pattern of colony formation was confirmed with field data from Lake Taihu (China), showing an increase in colony size when N was limiting and N : P ratios were low. These findings demonstrate how an explicit coupling of trait-based approaches to ecological stoichiometry can support our mechanistic understanding of responses of cyanobacteria toward shifts in resource availability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Plan_S-Compliant_NO
  • international


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