Regime shifts in freshwater ecosystems exposed to multiple stressors by increasing temperature, fertilizers and pesticides – CLIMSHIFT
Shallow freshwater habitats provide vital ecosystem functions but are threatened by multiple stressors acting at different spatial and temporal scales. While a response to global climate change might be gradual, abrupt changes are possible when critical thresholds by additional effects of local stressors are exceeded. The difficulty in analysing effects of multiple stressors is to account for complexity, as stressors may act additive, synergistic or antagonistic. CLIMSHIFT aims for a mechanistic understanding of stressor interactions acting on shallow aquatic systems, which are especially vulnerable to climate warming and agricultural run-off due to their high surface to water ratios, large riparian interface and groundwater connectivity. Complex interactions between different functional groups of benthic and pelagic primary producers and associated consumers result in alternative stable regimes. Multiple stressors may trigger non-linear shifts between those regimes, with far-reaching effects on crucial ecosystem processes and functions. Our main hypothesis is that increased temperature will enhance negative effects of agricultural run-off, containing nitrates, pesticides and copper. Submerged plants, periphyton and phytoplankton as primary producers will be combined with the second trophic level, consumers, composed of the snail Lymnaea, consuming periphyton and plants, and benthic and pelagic phytoplankton filter-feeders, Dreissena and Daphnia. We will apply exposure scenarios at two different spatial scales to understand effects at the individual, community and ecosystem level. Investigations in microcosms at laboratory scale will be upscaled to larger, outdoor mesocosms. We will use an integrative dynamical model approach to simulate potential outcomes and critical thresholds, and predict stressor interactions. Model development will be conducted in close collaboration with all work packages to identify the most appropriate modelling approach, integrate empirical results, link different spatial and temporal scales, generalize and extrapolate results, and develop and test hypotheses. We expect that combined stressors will lead to sudden shifts in community structure in highly coupled systems. Macrophytes are expected to be replaced by phytoplankton or benthic algae, with major consequences for important ecosystem functions. The strength of our proposal is that common ecotoxicological stress indicators such as growth and biomarkers of the different organisms will be combined with functional community/ecosystem approaches looking at ecosystem metabolism and dynamics. 5 laboratories with complementary expertise and all necessary facilities will ensure the project feasibility. The outcome of our project will support de definition of “safe operating spaces” for a sustainable agriculture and management of shallow aquatic systems in a changing world.
Madame Elisabeth Maria Gross (Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire des Environnements Continentaux)
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
ECOLAB/CNRS Laboratoire d'écologie fonctionnelle et environnement - CNRS
UFZ Bioanalytical Ecotoxicology
LMU Department Biologie II - Aquatic Ecology
LIEC Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire des Environnements Continentaux
IGB Department II: Ecosystem Research
Help of the ANR 931,427 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: April 2018 - 36 Months