Testing local and global stressor impacts on a coastal foundation species using an ecologically realistic framework

Journal Article Resource
February 2015
global change biology publication cover


Despite the abundance of literature on organismal responses to multiple environmental stressors, most studies have not matched the timing of experimental manipulations with the temporal pattern of stressors in nature. We test the interactive effects of diel‐cycling hypoxia with both warming and decreased salinities using ecologically realistic exposures. Surprisingly, we found no evidence of negative synergistic effects on Olympia oyster growth; rather, we found only additive and opposing effects of hypoxia (detrimental) and warming (beneficial). We suspect that diel‐cycling provided a temporal refuge that allowed physiological compensation. We also tested for latent effects of warming and hypoxia to low‐salinity tolerance using a seasonal delay between stressor events. However, we did not find a latent effect, rather a threshold survival response to low salinity that was independent of early life‐history exposure to warming or hypoxia. The absence of synergism is likely the result of stressor treatments that mirror the natural timing of environmental stressors. We provide environmental context for laboratory experimental data by examining field time series environmental data from four North American west coast estuaries and find heterogeneous environmental signals that characterize each estuary, suggesting that the potential stressor exposure to oysters will drastically differ over moderate spatial scales. This heterogeneity implies that efforts to conserve and restore oysters will require an adaptive approach that incorporates knowledge of local conditions. We conclude that studies of multiple environmental stressors can be greatly improved by integrating ecologically realistic exposure and timing of stressors found in nature with organismal life‐history traits.

About this article

This article, which appeared in Global Change Biology in 2015, describes a study that explores how the interactivity between temporal patterns and environmental stressors impacts Olympia oyster growth. 


Cheng BS, Bible JM, Chang AL, Ferner MC, Wasson K, Zabin CJ, Latta M, Deck AK, Todgham A, Grosholz ED (2015) Testing local and global stressor impacts on a coastal foundation species using an ecologically realistic framework. Global Change Biology 10.1111/gcb.12895

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