Other categories of resource

Two resources are said to be perfectly substitutable when either can wholly replace the other. This will be true for seeds of wheat or barley in the diet of a farmyard chicken, or for zebra and gazelle in the diet of a lion. Note that we do not imply that the two resources are as good as each other. This feature (perfectly sub-stitutable but not necessarily as good as each other) is included in Figure 3.27b by the isoclines having slopes that do not cut both axes at the same distance from the origin. Thus, in Figure 3.27b, in the absence of resource 2, the organism needs relatively little of resource 1, but in the absence of resource 1 it needs a relatively large amount of resource 2.

Substitutable resources are defined as complementary if the isoclines bow inwards towards the origin (Figure 3.27c). This shape means that a species requires less of two resources when taken together than when consumed separately. A good example is human vegetarians combining beans and rice in their diet. The beans are rich in lysine, an essential amino acid poorly represented in rice, whilst rice is rich in sulfur-containing amino acids that are present only in low abundance in beans.

A pair of substitutable resources with isoclines that bow away from the origin are defined as antagonistic (Figure 3.27d). The shape indicates that a species requires proportionately more resource to maintain a given rate of increase when two resources are consumed together than when consumed separately. This could arise, for example, if the resources contain different toxic compounds that act synergistically (more than just additively) on their consumer. For example, d, L-pipecolic acid and djenkolic acid (two defensive chemicals found in certain seeds) had no significant effect on the growth of the seed-eating larva of a bruchid beetle if consumed separately, but they had a pronounced effect if taken together (Janzen et al., 1977).

Finally, Figure 3.27e illustrates the phenomenon of inhibition at high inhibition resource levels for a pair of essential resources: resources that are essential but become damaging when in excess. CO2, water and mineral nutrients such as iron are all required for photosynthesis, but each is lethal in excess. Similarly, light leads to increased growth rates in plants through a broad range of intensities, but can inhibit growth at very high intensities. In such cases, the isoclines form closed curves because growth decreases with an increase in resources at very high levels.

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