Humans alter biogeochemical cycles of essential elements such as phosphorus (P). Prediction of ecosystem consequences of altered elemental cycles requires integration of ecology, evolutionary biology and the framework of ecological stoichiometry. We studied micro-evolutionary responses of a herbivorous rotifer to P-limited food and the potential consequences for its population demography and for ecosystem properties. We subjected field-derived, replicate rotifer populations to P-deficient and P-replete algal food, and studied adaptation in common garden transplant experiments after 103 and 209 days of selection. When fed P-limited food, populations with a P-limitation selection history suffered 37% lower mortality, reached twice the steady state biomass, and reduced algae by 40% compared to populations with a P-replete selection history. Adaptation involved no change in rotifer elemental composition but reduced investment in sex. This study demonstrates potentially strong eco-evolutionary feedbacks from shifting elemental balances to ecosystem properties, including grazing pressure and the ratio of grazer:producer biomass.
Data from: Rapid adaptation of herbivore consumers to nutrient limitation: eco-evolutionary feedbacks to population demography and resource control.