Global change and species interactions in terrestrial ecosystems

Ecol Lett. 2008 Dec;11(12):1351-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01250.x.


The main drivers of global environmental change (CO2 enrichment, nitrogen deposition, climate, biotic invasions and land use) cause extinctions and alter species distributions, and recent evidence shows that they exert pervasive impacts on various antagonistic and mutualistic interactions among species. In this review, we synthesize data from 688 published studies to show that these drivers often alter competitive interactions among plants and animals, exert multitrophic effects on the decomposer food web, increase intensity of pathogen infection, weaken mutualisms involving plants, and enhance herbivory while having variable effects on predation. A recurrent finding is that there is substantial variability among studies in both the magnitude and direction of effects of any given GEC driver on any given type of biotic interaction. Further, we show that higher order effects among multiple drivers acting simultaneously create challenges in predicting future responses to global environmental change, and that extrapolating these complex impacts across entire networks of species interactions yields unanticipated effects on ecosystems. Finally, we conclude that in order to reliably predict the effects of GEC on community and ecosystem processes, the greatest single challenge will be to determine how biotic and abiotic context alters the direction and magnitude of GEC effects on biotic interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem*
  • Food Chain
  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Symbiosis / physiology