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Duncan Menge, Lars Hedin, and Stephen Pacala receive ESA Award for Outstanding Theoretical Ecology Paper



The Theoretical Ecology Section of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) has awarded its 2012 prize for an outstanding theoretical ecology paper to “Nitrogen and Phosphorus Limitation over Long-term Ecosystem Development in Terrestrial Ecosystems” by Duncan Menge (Princeton EEB, Ph.D. 2008), Lars Hedin, and Stephen Pacala, published in PLoS One (2012) vol. 7(8): e42045. This paper formulates a mathematical model for looking at nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) dynamics over multiple timescales. Analyzing their model through techniques of timescale separation, Menge, Hedin, and Pacala determine whether N or P is more likely to limit net primary productivity (NPP) at short, intermediate, and long timescales. While some of their results provide support for already well-established ideas on NPP limitation, others are counter intuitive, thereby nicely demonstrating the importance of quantitative models for understanding dynamics at the level of the ecosystem. Finally, the work is elegant in that it nicely integrates disparate observations into one cohesive framework. A blog post about this article can be found here: http://blogs.plos.org/everyone/2013/05/06/balancing-nutrient-diets-determines-how-ecosystems-age/

April 29, 2013