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Ecological Stoichiometry

The Biology of Elements from Molecules to the Biosphere

Foreword by: Peter M. Vitousek

All life is chemical. That fact underpins the developing field of ecological stoichiometry, the study of the balance of chemical elements in ecological interactions. This long-awaited book brings this field into its own as a unifying force in ecology and evolution. Synthesizing a wide range of knowledge, Robert Sterner and Jim Elser show how an understanding of the biochemical deployment of elements in organisms from microbes to metazoa provides the key to making sense of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

After summarizing the chemistry of elements and their relative abundance in Earth's environment, the authors proceed along a line of increasing complexity and scale from molecules to cells, individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems. The book examines fundamental chemical constraints on ecological phenomena such as competition, herbivory, symbiosis, energy flow in food webs, and organic matter sequestration. In accessible prose and with clear mathematical models, the authors show how ecological stoichiometry can illuminate diverse fields of study, from metabolism to global change.

Set to be a classic in the field, Ecological Stoichiometry is an indispensable resource for researchers, instructors, and students of ecology, evolution, physiology, and biogeochemistry.

From the foreword by Peter Vitousek:

"[T]his book represents a significant milestone in the history of ecology. . . . Love it or argue with it--and I do both--most ecologists will be influenced by the framework developed in this book. . . . There are points to question here, and many more to test . . . And if we are both lucky and good, this questioning and testing will advance our field beyond the level achieved in this book. I can't wait to get on with it."

Author Information

Robert W. Sterner is Professor and Head of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. James J. Elser is Professor of Biology at Arizona State University. Peter Vitousek, one of the world's leading ecosystem ecologists, is Morrison Professor of Population and Resources at Stanford University.


"This very readable, well-organized book will broaden the purview of food-web and trophodynamic studies and have a similar impact as did ecological energetics decades ago. It offers an opportunity to merge the hitherto separate fields of community ecology and biogeochemistry." —Ulrich Sommer, University of Kiel

"A truly outstanding book. Sterner and Elser provide extremely convincing evidence in support of their hypothesis that elemental stoichiometry is a key to many central issues in ecology. The writing style is unusually clear and concise. The book is exceptionally well conceived, has eminently valuable goals, and will definitely serve a strong need in the scientific community."—Val H. Smith, University of Kansas

Robert Sterner and James Elser take a giant stride in knitting together perspectives across scales, biomes, and disciplines to craft an integrative and predictive vision of the topic. . . . It knits together such a broad range of relevant topics that anyone interested in the connections between biology and elemental cycles should give it a try.---Anthony F. Michaels, Science

"Ecological Stoichiometry is a monumental undertaking without ecological precedent. Sterner and Elser offer a majestic and novel synthesis of a broad and diverse field of study that ranges from chemistry to metabolism to global ecology. These two world-class scientists have singlehandedly created a brand-new subdiscipline, one that will likely spawn new research foci, and have done so in a captivating manner. This precedent-setting treatise will be the 'go-to' reference in this poorly consolidated but relevant field of physiological ecology."——David M. Karl, University of Hawaii

[This] book is seminal and presents a clear, well-reasoned overview of ES, thereby providing the biological community with an essential piece to the puzzle of integrating micro- and macro-level biology.---Van Savage, Complexity

"This is a work of enormous synthetic power that practically defines the field of ecological stoichiometry. It is certainly the most significant contribution to the field. Each chapter follows a logical progression, and the style is informal and very readable."—Donald L. DeAngelis, University of Miami

Few, if any, details of stoichiometry seem to have been overlooked by Sterner and Elser, and their book will be a useful reference to me for many years to come. . . . The hundreds of references in the bibliography are worth the price of the book alone.---David W. Schindler, Nature

"Sterner and Elser provide the definitive text on ecological stoichiometry. This is a fundamental advance in unifying ecology across levels of organization."—Simon A. Levin, Princeton University

I believe that his is one of the most important books written in ecology in the last 10 years. . . . I predict that in a few years it will be inconceivable to ignore the stoichiometric perspective when tackling an ecological problem. . . . Ecological Stoichiometry is well written in colloquial and friendly prose. The authors strived to explain their arguments clearly and in detail. The many mathematical models are explained with laudable lucidity and the figures that illustrate them are consistently good.---Carlos Martinez Del Rio, Ecology

How often do you read a book that has a large number of 'aha!' moments in every chapter? This is a significant piece of synthesis and scholarship that brings together a very large number of disciplines and disparate chunks of data into a very satisfying whole. . . . Never before have I seen a book which spans the scales from molecular biology to ecosystems so effectively. . . . It is sure to become a classic.---Graham Harris, Journal of Plankton Research

A fresh and stimulating perspective on this area of ecology. The clear, readable style renders this text highly accessible.

Sterner and Elser adopt a simple, incremental logic in the book and follow it with fidelity. . . . The book is an excellent introduction to ecological stoichiometry for graduate students; and for those already in the field, it is a thorough review of the complexities and nuances of stoichiometric ecology by two of its best practitioners.---Robert E. Hecky, Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin

Audience: Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;