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Subtle behavioral responses to soil pollutants in laboratory assays: what do they actually mean in nature?

Research project financed by the Swedish Research Council.

A small miss step for invertebrates, but a giant leap for ecosystems?

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2022-01-01 2025-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Ecology and Environmental Science

Research area

Environmental sciences

External funding

Swedish Research Council

Project description

Behavioral changes caused by chemical pollutants are believed to be a primary driver behind recent declines in invertebrate populations. However, verifying that sub-lethal, pollutant-induced effects observed in artificial lab settings manifest similarly in nature is a key question that has evaded environmental scientists.

The purpose of this project is to better understand the meaning behind subtle behavioral shifts observed in the laboratory, and translate these observations into models that accurately depict invertebrate responses to stressors in nature. The primary aim is to test a hypothesis—of fundamental importance for modern environmental science—stating that laboratory-based responses to pollutants are representative of community responses in complex natural settings. We test a theory derived from our recent work that suggests the behavior of the collective community may be more resilient to pollutants than the individual. Lastly, we will compare lab-based predictions with in situ measurements of soil macrofauna behaviors in field-based experiments to test the main hypothesis.

External funding