Allometric scaling and taxonomic variation in nutrient utilization traits and maximum growth rate of phytoplankton

Kyle F. Edwards, Mridul K. Thomas, Christopher A. Klausmeier and Elena Litchman

Limnol. Oceanogr., 57(2), 2012, 554-566 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2012.57.2.0554

ABSTRACT: Nutrient utilization traits can be used to link the ecophysiology of phytoplankton to population dynamic models and the structure of communities across environmental gradients. Here we analyze a comprehensive literature compilation of four traits: maximum nutrient uptake rate; the half-saturation constant for nutrient uptake; the minimum subsistence quota, measured for nitrate and phosphate; and maximum growth rate. We also use these traits to analyze two composite traits, uptake affinity and scaled uptake affinity. All traits tend to increase with cell volume, except for scaled uptake affinity and maximum growth rate, which tend to decline with cell volume. Most scaling relationships are the same for freshwater and marine species, although important differences exist. Most traits differ on average between major taxa, but between-taxon variation is nearly always due to between-taxon variation in volume. There is some evidence for between-trait correlations that could constrain trait evolution, but these correlations are difficult to disentangle from correlation driven by cell volume. These results should enhance the parameterization of models that use size or taxonomic group to structure physiological variation in phytoplankton communities.

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