Growth responses of a green alga to multiple environmental drivers

One feature of global change is that biota must respond not to single, but to multiple environmental drivers. By growing a model photosynthetic microbe in environments containing between one and eight different drivers, including changes in CO2, temperature, and pH, in different combinations, we show that the number as well as the identities of drivers explain shifts in population growth rates. This is because the biotic response to multiple environmental drivers depends on the response to the single dominant driver, and the chance of a driver of large effect being present increases with the number of drivers. Interactions between drivers slightly counteract the expected drop in growth. Our results demonstrate that population growth declines in a predictable way with the number of environmental drivers, and provide an empirically supported model for scaling up from studies on organismal responses to single drivers to predict responses to large numbers of environmental drivers.

Brennan G. & Collins S., in press. Growth responses of a green alga to multiple environmental drivers. Nature Climate Change. Article (subscription required).

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