A hypothesis is presented for the regulation of elemental losses from terrestrial ecosystems. Losses of elements are controlled by the net increment of biomass growth and the elemental composition of this net increment. According to this hypothesis, loss rates are highest in early succession and in steady state ecosystems.

Author notes

Peter M. Vitousek is with the Department of Zoology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47041.
William A. Reiners is with the Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755.