Chemical and natural stressors combined: from cryptic effects to population extinction

André Gergs, Armin Zenker, Volker Grimm, Thomas Preuss

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In addition to natural stressors, populations are increasingly exposed to chemical pollutants released into the environment. We experimentally demonstrate the loss of resilience for Daphnia magna populations that are exposed to a combination of natural and chemical stressors even though effects on population size of a single stressor were cryptic, i.e. hard to detect statistically. Data on Daphnia population demography and along with model-based exploration of our predator-prey system revealed that direct trophic interactions changed the population size-structure and thereby increased population vulnerability to the toxicant which acts in a size selective manner. Moreover, population vulnerability to the toxicant increases with predator size and predation intensity whereas indirect trait-mediated interactions via predator kairomones may buffer chemical effects to a certain extent. Our study demonstrates that population size can be a poor endpoint for risk assessments of chemicals and that ignoring disturbance interactions can lead to severe underestimation of extinction risk
TidsskriftScientific Reports
StatusUdgivet - 2013


  • Population dynamics
  • Freshwater ecology
  • Ecological modelling
  • Environmental sciences

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