The cumulative impacts of anthropogenic stressors vary markedly along environmental gradients

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Understanding the cumulative effects of multiple stressors on biodiversity is key to managing their impacts. Stressor interactions are often studied using an additive/antagonistic/synergistic typology, aimed at identifying situations where individual stressor effects are reduced or amplified when they act in combination. Here, we analysed variation in the family richness of stream macroinvertebrates in the groups Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera (EPT) at 4658 sites spanning a 32° latitudinal range in eastern Australia in relation to two largely human-induced stressors, salinity and turbidity, and two environmental gradients, temperature and slope. The cumulative and interactive effect of salinity and turbidity on EPT family richness varied across the landscape and by habitat (edge or riffle) such that we observed additive, antagonistic and synergistic outcomes depending on the environmental context. Our findings highlight the importance of understanding the consistency of multiple stressor impacts, which will involve higher-order interactions between multiple stressors and environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-602
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


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