Including species interactions in risk assessments for global change


R. W. Sutherst, e-mail:


Most ecological risk assessments for global change are restricted to the effects of trends in climate or atmospheric carbon dioxide. In order to move beyond investigation of the effects of climate alone, the climex model was extended to investigate the effects of species interactions, in the same or different trophic levels, along environmental gradients on a geographical scale. Specific needs that were revealed during the investigations include: better treatment of the effects of temporal and spatial climatic variation; elucidation of the nature of boundaries of species ranges; data to quantify the role of species traits in interspecies interactions; integrated observational, experimental, and modelling studies on mechanisms of species interactions along environmental gradients; and high-resolution global environmental datasets. Greater acknowledgement of the shared limitations of simplified models and experimental studies is also needed. Above all, use of the scientific method to understand representative species ranges is essential. This requires the use of mechanistic approaches capable of progressive enhancement.