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Title: Perceived multiple stressor effects depend on sample size and stressor gradient length
Authors: Mack, Leoni; Fernandez de la Hoz, Camino; Penk, Marcin; Piggott, Jeremy; Crowe, Tasman; Hering, Daniel; Kaijser, Willem; Aroviita, Jukka; Baer, Jan; Borja, Angel; Clark, Dana E.; Fernandez-Torquemada, Yolanda; Kotta, Jonne; Matthaei, Christoph D.; O'Beirn, Francis; Paerl, Hans W.; Sokolowski, Adam; Vilmi, Annika; Birk, Sebastian
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 gra-dients. 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.
Keywords: Multiple stressor effect sizes; Multiple stressor effect types; Stressor levels; Dose dependence; Adaptive management; Sampling design; FRESH-WATER; MARINE; IMPACTS; ANTAGONISM; RESPONSES; SYNERGISM; GUIDE
Issue Date: 2022
Type: Article
DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2022.119260
ISSN: 0043-1354
E-ISSN: 1879-2448
Funder: Scenarios of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services II programme - Belmont Forum
Scenarios of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services II programme - Biodiversa
Scenarios of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services II programme - European Commission
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Fenix Programme, Government of Cantabria
Augusto Gonzalez de Linares, Programa de ayudas de la Universidad de Cantabria para contratos posdoctorales [POS-UC2020-07]
Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland)
Marine Institute (Ireland)
Basque Water Agency (URA)
Consorcio de Aguas Bilbao-Bizkaia (Spain)
Cawthron Institute, New Zealand
Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand
Oranga Taiao Oranga Tangata research programme, New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment [MAUX1502]
USA National Science Foundation, Dimensions of Biodiversity Program [1831096]
Irish Research Council Laureate Award [IRCLA/2017/112]
Division Of Environmental Biology
Direct For Biological Sciences [1831096] Funding Source: National Science Foundation
Irish Research Council (IRC) [IRCLA/2017/112] Funding Source: Irish Research Council (IRC)
New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation \& Employment (MBIE) [MAUX1502] Funding Source: New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation \& Employment (MBIE)
Appears in Publication types:Artículos científicos

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