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Perceived multiple stressor effects depend on sample size and stressor gradient length

Abstract: Multiple stressors are continuously deteriorating surface waters worldwide, posing many challenges for their conservation and restoration. Combined effect types of multiple stressors range from single-stressor dominance to complex interactions. Identifying prevalent combined effect types is critical for environmental management, as it helps to prioritise key stressors for mitigation. However, it remains unclear whether observed single and combined stressor effects reflect true ecological processes unbiased by sample size and length of stressor gradients. Therefore, we examined the role of sample size and stressor gradient lengths in 158 paired-stressor response cases with over 120,000 samples from rivers, lakes, transitional and marine ecosystems around the world. For each case, we split the overall stressor gradient into two partial gradients (lower and upper) and investigated associated changes in single and combined stressor effects. Sample size influenced the identified combined effect types, and stressor interactions were less likely for cases with fewer samples. After splitting gradients, 40 % of cases showed a change in combined effect type, 30 % no change, and 31 % showed a loss in stressor effects. These findings suggest that identified combined effect types may often be statistical artefacts rather than representing ecological processes. In 58 % of cases, we observed changes in stressor effect directions after the gradient split, suggesting unimodal stressor effects. In general, such non-linear responses were more pronounced for organisms at higher trophic levels. We conclude that observed multiple stressor effects are not solely determined by ecological processes, but also strongly depend on sampling design. Observed effects are likely to change when sample size and/or gradient length are modified. Our study highlights the need for improved monitoring programmes with sufficient sample size and stressor gradient coverage. Our findings emphasize the importance of adaptive management, as stress reduction measures or further ecosystem degradation may change multiple stressor-effect relationships, which will then require associated changes in management strategies.

 Fuente: Water Research, 2022, 226,119260

 Editorial: Elsevier Limited

 Fecha de publicación: 01/11/2022

 Nº de páginas: 33

 Tipo de publicación: Artículo de Revista

 DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2022.119260

 ISSN: 0043-1354,1879-2448

 Url de la publicación: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2022.119260

Autoría

PENK, MARCIN

PIGGOTT, JEREMY

CROWE, TASMAN

HERING, DANIEL

KAIJSER, WILLEM

AROVIITA, JUKKA

BAER, JAN

BORJA, ANGEL

CLARK, DANA E

FERNÁNDEZ-TORQUEMADA, YOLANDA

KOTTAL, JONNES

MATTHAEI, CHRISTOPH D.

O'BEIRN, FRANCIS

PAERL, HANS W.

SOKOLOWSKI, ADAM

VILMI, ANNIKA

BIRK, SEBASTIAN