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Connecting the green and brown worlds: Allometric and stoichiometric predictability of above- and below-ground networks


Kattge,  Jens
Interdepartmental Max Planck Fellow Group Functional Biogeography, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Mulder, C., Ahrestani, F. S., Bahn, M., Bohan, D. A., Bonkowski, M., Griffith, B. S., et al. (2013). Connecting the green and brown worlds: Allometric and stoichiometric predictability of above- and below-ground networks. Advances in Ecological Research, 49, 69-175. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-420002-9.00002-0.

We examine the potential of trait-based parameters of taxa for linking above-ground and below-ground ecological networks (hereafter ‘green’ and ‘brown’ worlds) to understand and predict community dynamics. This synthesis considers carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus-related traits, the abundance of component species and their size-distribution across trophic levels under different forms of management. We have analyzed existing and novel databases on plants, microbes and invertebrates that combine physico-chemical and biological information from (agro)ecosystems spanning the globe. We found (1) evidence that traits from above-ground and below-ground systems may be integrated in the same model and (2) a much greater than expected stoichiometric plasticity of plants and microbes which has implications for the entire food-web mass–abundance scaling. Nitrogen and phosphorus are primary basal resources (hence, drivers) and more retranslocation of P than of N from leaves will lead to higher N:P in the litter and soil organic matter. Thus, under nutrient-rich conditions, higher foliar concentrations of N and P are reflected by lower N:P in the brown litter, suggesting less P retranslocated than N. This apparent stoichiometric dichotomy between green and brown could result in shifts in threshold elemental ratios critical for ecosystem functioning. It has important implications for a general food-web model, given that resource C:N:P ratios are generally assumed to reflect environmental C:N:P ratios. We also provide the first evidence for large-scale allometric changes according to the stoichiometry of agroecosystems. Finally, we discuss insights that can be gained from integrating carbon and nitrogen isotope data into trait-based approaches, and address the origin of changes in Δ13C and Δ15N fractionation values in relation to consumer–resource body-mass ratios.