Additive and interactive cumulative effects on boreal landbirds; winners and losers in a multi-stressor landscape

Stressors created by multiple resource industries can result in cumulative effects over time and space. Many studies have evaluated single stressors and assumed that cumulative effects can be understood by adding stressors together. However, there is growing evidence that interactive effects are important in structuring biological communities. We evaluated whether the effects of multiple stressors in the boreal forest (linear features, energy, forestry) combine additively or interactively by testing a candidate model set of 12 cumulative effects models of abundance for 27 landbird species. We fitted paired additive and interactive Generalized Additive Models and examined model predictions in the Athabasca Oil Sands Area of Alberta, Canada, and a theoretical no-disturbance version of the study area. Of the 27 species examined, an additive disturbance model was the best for nine species, while an interactive disturbance model was the best for 11 species. In the current study area, disturbance models predicted strong increases in abundance for species associated with deciduous forest and open habitats (winning species) and moderate decreases for species associated with conifer forest (losing species). We found a 15% change in landbird community composition between the current study area, with 8.4% disturbance, and the theoretical no-disturbance study area. Complex synergistic and antagonistic interactions among stressors were observed for 39% of landbird species, with the majority of interactions observed being synergistic. Stressors with relatively small disturbance areas, such as narrow linear disturbances, frequently interacted with other stressors to affect species’ responses, and energy sector stressors often had additive or interactive effects with forestry stressors. Interactive cumulative effects from multiple sectors will make it increasingly difficult for industry and land managers to manage impacts unless interactions among stressors are incorporated into cumulative effects assessments and regional land use planning processes.

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Additional Info

Field Value
Short Name of Publication
Deliverable Type Science Article
Program Catagory
Program Type OSM
Author C. Lisa Mahon, Gillian L.Holloway, Erin M. Bayne, Judith D. Toms
Periodical Title Ecological Applications
Year of Publication 2019
Publishing Organization
Month of Publication 5
Periodical Volumes 29(5)
Page Range e01895
Digital Object Identifier (DOI) 10.1002/eap.1895
Online ISBN/ISSN 1939-5582
Recomended Citation Mahon, C. L., Holloway, G. L., Bayne, E. M., & Toms, J. D. (2019). Additive and interactive cumulative effects on boreal landbirds: winners and losers in a multi‐stressor landscape. Ecological Applications, 29(5). doi:10.1002/eap.1895