Global climate change and ozone layer thinning will simultaneously expose organisms to increasingly stressful conditions. Early life stages of marine organisms, particularly eggs and larvae, are considered most vulnerable to environmental extremes. Here, we exposed encapsulated embryos of three common rocky shore gastropods to simultaneous combinations of ecologically realistic levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR), water temperature stress and salinity stress to identify potential interactions and associated impacts of climate change. We detected synergistic effects with increases in mortality and retardation in development associated with the most physiologically stressful conditions. The effects of UVR were particularly marked, with mortality increasing up to 12-fold under stressful conditions. Importantly, the complex outcomes observed on applying multiple stressors could not have been predicted from examining environmental variables in isolation. Hence, we are probably dramatically underestimating the ecological impacts of climate change by failing to consider the complex interplay of combinations of environmental variables with organisms.
Przeslawski, R, Davis, RA, Benkendorff, K 2005, 'Synergistic effects associated with climate change and the development of rocky shore molluscs', Global Change Biology, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 515-522.
Publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2005.00918.x