Embracing interactions in ocean acidification research: confronting multiple stressor scenarios and context dependence
Changes in the Earth's environment are now sufficiently complex that our ability to forecast the emergent ecological consequences of ocean acidification (OA) is limited. Such projections are challenging because the effects of OA may be enhanced, reduced or even reversed by other environmental stressors or interactions among species. Despite an increasing emphasis on multifactor and multispecies studies in global change biology, our ability to forecast outcomes at higher levels of organization remains low. Much of our failure lies in a poor mechanistic understanding of nonlinear responses, a lack of specificity regarding the levels of organization at which interactions can arise, and an incomplete appreciation for linkages across these levels. To move forward, we need to fully embrace interactions. Mechanistic studies on physiological processes and individual performance in response to OA must be complemented by work on population and community dynamics. We must also increase our understanding of how linkages and feedback among multiple environmental stressors and levels of organization can generate nonlinear responses to OA. This will not be a simple undertaking, but advances are of the utmost importance as we attempt to mitigate the effects of ongoing global change.