Our work on multiple stressors and ecosystem resilience


Interactions between multiple ecosystem stressors are expected to jeopardize biological processes, functions and biodiversity. The scientific community has declared stressor interactions—especially synergies—a key issue for conservation and management, but synergies are not the only way in which multiple stressors can interact. We have demonstrated that synergies are, in fact, often not the most prevalent interaction type (Darling and Côté, 2010; Côté et al. 2016), and this can have profound implications for the way in which we should manage marine ecosystems, especially to increase resilience to climate change. For example, controlling a local stressor (e.g., sedimentation) that interacts antagonistically with an unmanageable  global stressor (e.g., sea warming) could lead to even greater impacts of the latter.

In TMEL, we are now conducting meta-analyses and field experiments to understand and try to predict the shape of ecosystem responses (kelp, seagrass) to multiple stressors (Jillian Dunic, Manon Picard). We are also examining, with literature reviews and modelling, the extent to which current marine management frameworks can and do incorporate multiple stressors and tipping points in the assessment of cumulative effects (Jordan Hollarsmith, Melissa Orobko).  Much of our work on multiple stressors and  resilience of kelp and seagrass ecosystems is funded by the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network.

Some of our publications on multiple stressors and resilience

  • Côté, I.M. and Darling, E.S. 2010. Rethinking ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change. PLOS Biology 8, e1000438.
  • Darling, E.S., McClanahan, T.R. and Côté, I.M. 2010. Combined effects of two stressors on Kenyan coral reefs are additive or antagonistic, not synergistic. Conservation Letters 3, 122-130.
  • Côté, I.M., Darling E.S., and Brown, C.J. 2016. Interactions among ecosystem stressors and their importance for conservation.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B – Biological Sciences 283: 20152592
  • Darling, E.S. and Côté, I.M. 2018. Seeking resilience in marine ecosystems (invited Perspective). Science 359, 986-987.
  • Bruno, J.B., Côté, I.M. and Toth, L.T. 2019. Climate change, coral loss, and the curious case of the parrotfish paradigm: Why don’t MPAs improve reef resilience?  Annual Reviews in Marine Sciences 11, 307–334.
  • Bates, A.E., Cooke, R., Duncan, M.I., Edgar, G.J., Bruno, J.F., Barrett, N., Bird, T.J., Benedetti-Cecchi, L., Costello, M.J., Côté, I.M., Fenberg, P.B, Lefcheck, J.S. and Stuart-Smith, R.D. 2019. Resilience in marine protected areas and the ‘Protection Paradox’. Biological Conservation 236, 305-314.