In low-resource ecosystems, competition among primary producers can be reduced through the partitioning of limiting resources in space or time. Partitioning, coupled with species interactions, can be a source of ecosystem stability by retaining resources within a biotic “loop” and slowing losses due to physical processes, such as erosion, gaseous loss, or leaching. Such coupling occurs in marine food webs (the microbial loop), where positive interactions among microbes limit losses of nutrients that would otherwise drop to the ocean floor (Fenchel, 2008). Likewise, mycorrhizal fungi in tropical rainforests may rapidly recycle litter nutrients back to canopy trees, preventing leaching driven by high rainfall (Hattenschwiler et al., 2011). Such dynamics differ from the paradigm for most mesic, terrestrial ecosystems, in which the primary source of nutrients for primary production is the decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM, Schimel and Bennett, 2004). Thus, in ecosystems that lack large reserves of soil organic matter to supply nutrients to producers (e.g., drylands, where sparse litter yields low SOM), biotic retention of nutrients may be particularly critical to primary production and ecosystem dynamics.