Marine plankton elemental stoichiometric ratios can deviate from the Redfield ratio (106C:16N:1P); here, we examine physiological and biogeochemical mechanisms that lead to the observed variation across lineages, regions, and seasons. Many models of ecological stoichiometry blend together acclimative and adaptive responses to environmental conditions. These two pathways can have unique molecular mechanisms and stoichiometric outcomes, and we attempt to disentangle the two processes. We find that interactions between environmental conditions and cellular growth are key to understanding stoichiometric regulation, but the growth rates of most marine plankton populations are poorly constrained. We propose that specific physiological mechanisms have a strong impact on plankton and community stoichiometry in nutrient-rich environments, whereas biogeochemical interactions are important for the stoichiometry of the oligotrophic gyres. Finally, we outline key areas with missing information that is needed to advance understanding of the present and future ecological stoichiometry of ocean plankton.


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