Growth Competition Tradeoffs

The GRH provides an explanation for why an organism might be selected to have high P content. Why then don't all organisms have high P content? As elsewhere in evolutionary biology, the answer lies in understanding key tradeoffs. What disadvantage might there be to having a high-growth, high-P lifestyle? Ecologists have long recognized a general syndrome of life-history characteristics, those that promote rapid-growth, colonist-type, life histories from those that promote success in the face of extreme competition due to presence of many competitors. The former are referred to as r-selected species and the latter are referred to as K-selected species. Stoichiometry has its own version of r—K selection theory.

We have already seen that high-growth (r-selected) life histories require high P. However, it is equally the case that species of low nutrient content will outcompete species of high nutrient content during exploitative competition for resources. Stoichiometry predicts that this tradeoff will be particularly evidenced under conditions of P-limitation, because of the close tie between P and high growth rate. High-growth-rate species are anticipated to be poor competitors. According to stoichiometric theory, this tradeoff results from the material basis of a high-growth-rate lifestyle.

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