Timing of stressors alters interactive effects on a coastal foundation species

Journal Article Resource
December 2017
Ecology journal cover


The effects of climate‐driven stressors on organismal performance and ecosystem functioning have been investigated across many systems; however, manipulative experiments generally apply stressors as constant and simultaneous treatments, rather than accurately reflecting temporal patterns in the natural environment. Here, we assessed the effects of temporal patterns of high aerial temperature and low salinity on survival of Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida), a foundation species of conservation and restoration concern. As single stressors, low salinity (5 and 10 psu) and the highest air temperature (40°C) resulted in oyster mortality of 55.8, 11.3, and 23.5%, respectively. When applied on the same day, low salinity and high air temperature had synergistic negative effects that increased oyster mortality. This was true even for stressor levels that were relatively mild when applied alone (10 psu and 35°C). However, recovery times of two or four weeks between stressors eliminated the synergistic effects. Given that most natural systems threatened by climate change are subject to multiple stressors that vary in the timing of their occurrence, our results suggest that it is important to examine temporal variation of stressors in order to more accurately understand the possible biological responses to global change.

About this article

This 2017 article appeared in the journal Ecology, and presents findings from a study assessing the individual and synergistic effects of air temperature and salinity on Olympia oyster mortality across temporal patterns that accurately reflect the natural environment. 


Bible J, Cheng B, Chang A, Ferner MC, Wasson K, Zabin C, Latta M, Sanford E, Deck A, Grosholz E (2017) Timing of stressors alters interactive effects on a coastal foundation species. Ecology 98: 2468–78. 10.1002/ecy.1943

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