Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Food chain effects of nutrient limitation in primary producers

Maarten Boersma A B F , Claes Becker C D , Arne M. Malzahn A and Sonja Vernooij C E

A Alfred Wegener Institut für Polar und Meeresforschung, Biologische Anstalt Helgoland, Postbox 180, 27483 Helgoland, Germany.

B GKSS-Research Centre, Institute for Coastal Research, Max-Planck-Straße 1, 21502 Geesthacht, Germany.

C Max Planck Institut für Limnologie, Postfach 165, 24302 Plön, Germany.

D Present address: SWECO Environment AB, Gjörwellsgatan 22, Box 34044, 10026 Stockholm, Sweden.

E Present address: Kiwa Water Research, Groningenhaven 7, 3433 PE, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(10) 983-989
Submitted: 20 August 2008  Accepted: 29 March 2009   Published: 20 October 2009


The propagation of mineral limitation in primary producers to the second consumer level has rarely been investigated. Recently, it has been shown that limitation effects do travel up the food chain, not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively, and also that these quality effects affect the nutritional condition and growth of secondary consumers. The present study experimentally investigated the effect of phosphorus limitation in combination with fatty acid addition in primary producers (Scenedesmus obliquus) channelled through a primary consumer (Daphnia magna) on the condition of larval rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). The C : P ratio and the fatty acid concentrations of the primary producers varied significantly with the phosphorus concentration of the culture media. These differences were also visible in the primary consumers (D. magna) feeding on the algae. The significantly different stoichiometry and fatty acid concentrations of the daphnids fed to larval trout did not lead to significant differences in growth, but the additional supplementation of fatty acid emulsions caused a significant increase in the condition of the fish. It was found that in the case of Daphnia as the primary prey for fish, with its relatively high phosphorus content even under phosphorus limitation, it is unlikely that phosphorus limitation affects fish condition and growth.

Additional keywords: ecological stoichiometry, homeostasis, Redfield ratio.


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