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      Managing for Interactions between Local and Global Stressors of Ecosystems


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          Global stressors, including climate change, are a major threat to ecosystems, but they cannot be halted by local actions. Ecosystem management is thus attempting to compensate for the impacts of global stressors by reducing local stressors, such as overfishing. This approach assumes that stressors interact additively or synergistically, whereby the combined effect of two stressors is at least the sum of their isolated effects. It is not clear, however, how management should proceed for antagonistic interactions among stressors, where multiple stressors do not have an additive or greater impact. Research to date has focussed on identifying synergisms among stressors, but antagonisms may be just as common. We examined the effectiveness of management when faced with different types of interactions in two systems – seagrass and fish communities – where the global stressor was climate change but the local stressors were different. When there were synergisms, mitigating local stressors delivered greater gains, whereas when there were antagonisms, management of local stressors was ineffective or even degraded ecosystems. These results suggest that reducing a local stressor can compensate for climate change impacts if there is a synergistic interaction. Conversely, if there is an antagonistic interaction, management of local stressors will have the greatest benefits in areas of refuge from climate change. A balanced research agenda, investigating both antagonistic and synergistic interaction types, is needed to inform management priorities.

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          Most cited references11

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          Ecology. Physiology and climate change.

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            The impacts of climate change in coastal marine systems.

            Anthropogenically induced global climate change has profound implications for marine ecosystems and the economic and social systems that depend upon them. The relationship between temperature and individual performance is reasonably well understood, and much climate-related research has focused on potential shifts in distribution and abundance driven directly by temperature. However, recent work has revealed that both abiotic changes and biological responses in the ocean will be substantially more complex. For example, changes in ocean chemistry may be more important than changes in temperature for the performance and survival of many organisms. Ocean circulation, which drives larval transport, will also change, with important consequences for population dynamics. Furthermore, climatic impacts on one or a few 'leverage species' may result in sweeping community-level changes. Finally, synergistic effects between climate and other anthropogenic variables, particularly fishing pressure, will likely exacerbate climate-induced changes. Efforts to manage and conserve living marine systems in the face of climate change will require improvements to the existing predictive framework. Key directions for future research include identifying key demographic transitions that influence population dynamics, predicting changes in the community-level impacts of ecologically dominant species, incorporating populations' ability to evolve (adapt), and understanding the scales over which climate will change and living systems will respond.
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              Quantifying the evidence for ecological synergies.

              There is increasing concern that multiple drivers of ecological change will interact synergistically to accelerate biodiversity loss. However, the prevalence and magnitude of these interactions remain one of the largest uncertainties in projections of future ecological change. We address this uncertainty by performing a meta-analysis of 112 published factorial experiments that evaluated the impacts of multiple stressors on animal mortality in freshwater, marine and terrestrial communities. We found that, on average, mortalities from the combined action of two stressors were not synergistic and this result was consistent across studies investigating different stressors, study organisms and life-history stages. Furthermore, only one-third of relevant experiments displayed truly synergistic effects, which does not support the prevailing ecological paradigm that synergies are rampant. However, in more than three-quarters of relevant experiments, the outcome of multiple stressor interactions was non-additive (i.e. synergies or antagonisms), suggesting that ecological surprises may be more common than simple additive effects.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                12 June 2013
                : 8
                : 6
                : e65765
                [1 ]The Global Change Institute and the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
                [2 ]Australian Research Council, Centre for Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
                [3 ]Climate Adaptation Flagship, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Marine and Atmospheric Research, Dutton Park, Queensland, Australia
                [4 ]Centre for Applications in Natural Resource Mathematics, School of Mathematics and Physics, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
                University of Gothenburg, Sweden
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: CJB MIS HPP AJR. Performed the experiments: CJB. Analyzed the data: CJB MIS HPP AJR. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: CJB MIS. Wrote the paper: CJB MIS HPP AJR.

                Copyright @ 2013

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                : 28 November 2012
                : 2 May 2013
                Page count
                Pages: 10
                CJB’s contribution was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. MIS was supported by an ARC Super Science Postdoctoral Fellowship. AJR was supported by an ARC Future Fellowship FT0991722. This work forms part of the ARC Discovery Grant DP0879365. ARC: http://www.arc.gov.au/. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Conservation Science
                Global Change Ecology
                Marine Biology
                Marine Conservation
                Population Biology
                Population Modeling



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