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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Ecol. Evol. | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00387

Combined effects of multiple stressors: new insights into the influence of timing and sequence

  • 1School of Biology and Environmental Science, College of Science, University College Dublin, Ireland
  • 2Earth Institute, University College Dublin, Ireland

Complex regimes of stress arise when multiple stressors combine simultaneously, with varying degrees of temporal separation or variation in their sequential order. A manipulative field experiment was run to test whether doses of two stressors (Copper & Biocide) varied in their effects on marine epifauna and ecosystem functioning depending on their sequence, timing and delay before sampling. Our key finding was that time-lags between stressors led to longer-lasting effects. We also found that the sequential order of two stressors influenced effects on measures of ecosystem-level processes: for community respiration (CR) the metal-first sequence of stressors had a negative effect; for clearance rates the biocide-first sequence had the greater effect. Effects of stressors delivered simultaneously on CR and clearance rates were short-lived. Intra-individual effects on cellular viability did not correspond with effects on ecosystem-level variables. Results show that current frameworks for understanding and managing the effects of multiple stressors can be improved by incorporating temporal variation in both cause and effect.

Keywords: multiple stressors, time-lags, sequential order, assemblages, ecosystems, Ecosystem functioning

Received: 15 Oct 2018; Accepted: 25 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Brooks and Crowe. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Paul R. Brooks, School of Biology and Environmental Science, College of Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland, paul.brooks@ucd.ie