“Unifying” the Concept of Resource Use Efficiency in Ecology

berenike.bick [ at ] awi.de


Resource use efficiency (RUE) is an ecological concept that measures the proportion of supplied resources, which is converted into new biomass, i.e., it relates realized to potential productivity. It is also commonly perceived as one of the main mechanisms linking biodiversity to ecosystem functioning based on the assumption that higher species numbers lead to more complementary and consequently more efficient use of the available resources. While there exists a large body of literature lending theoretical and experimental support to this hypothesis, there are a number of inconsistencies regarding its application: First, empirical tests use highly divergent approaches to calculate RUE. Second, the quantification of RUE is commonly based on measures of standing stock instead of productivity rates and total pools of nutrients instead of their bioavailable fractions, which both vary across systems and therefore can introduce considerable bias. Third, conceptual studies suggest that the relationship between biodiversity, productivity and RUE involves many more mechanisms than complementary resource use, resulting in variable magnitude and direction of biodiversity effects on productivity. Moreover, RUE has mainly been applied to single elements, ignoring stoichiometric, or metabolic constraints that lead to co-limitation by multiple resources. In this review we illustrate and discuss the use of RUE within and across systems and highlight how the various drivers of RUE affect the diversity-productivity relationship with increasing temporal and spatial scales as well as under anthropogenic global change. We illustrate how resource supply, resource uptake and RUE interactively determine ecosystem productivity. In addition, we illustrate how in the context of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, the addition of a species will only result in more efficient resource use, and consequently, higher community productivity if the species' traits related to resource uptake and RUE are positively correlated.

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Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Eprint ID
DOI 10.3389/fevo.2018.00233

Cite as
Hodapp, D. , Hillebrand, H. and Striebel, M. (2019): “Unifying” the Concept of Resource Use Efficiency in Ecology , Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6 (233) . doi: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00233


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