Interactions among ecosystem stressors and their importance in conservation
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Interactions between multiple ecosystem stressors are expected to jeopardize biological processes, functions and biodiversity. The scientific community has declared stressor interactions—notably synergies—a key issue for conservation and management. Here, we review ecological literature over the past four decades to evaluate trends in the reporting of ecological interactions (synergies, antagonisms and additive effects) and highlight the implications and importance to conservation. Despite increasing popularity, and ever-finer terminologies, we find that synergies are (still) not the most prevalent type of interaction, and that conservation practitioners need to appreciate and manage for all interaction outcomes, including antagonistic and additive effects. However, it will not be possible to identify the effect of every interaction on every organism's physiology and every ecosystem function because the number of stressors, and their potential interactions, are growing rapidly. Predicting the type of interactions may be possible in the near-future, using meta-analyses, conservation-oriented experiments and adaptive monitoring. Pending a general framework for predicting interactions, conservation management should enact interventions that are robust to uncertainty in interaction type and that continue to bolster biological resilience in a stressful world.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences