Global review reveals how disparate study motivations, analytical designs, and focal ions limit understanding of salinization effects on freshwater animals

Science of The Total Environment(2023)

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Global salinization of freshwaters is adversely affecting biotic communities and ecosystem processes. We reviewed six decades (1960–2020) of literature published on animal responses to increased salinities across different taxonomic and ecological contexts and identified knowledge gaps. From 585 journal articles, we characterized 5924 responses of mollusks, crustaceans, zooplankton, non-arthropod invertebrates (NAI), insects, fishes, and amphibians to salinization. Insects and fishes were the most studied taxa; Na+ and Cl− were the most studied ions−. Collectively, concentrations of the ions examined typically spanned five orders of magnitude. Species' invasiveness was a key motivation for studying mollusks, crustaceans, and fishes; threats of urbanization and road salts were key motivations for studying NAI, zooplankton, and amphibians. Laboratory studies were more common than field studies for most taxa. Focal life stages in laboratory studies varied widely but juveniles and adults were represented similarly in field studies. Studies of mollusks, NAI, and crustacean focused on adults; studies of zooplankton, insects, fishes, and amphibians focused on juveniles. Organismal- and population-level responses measuring solute uptake, internal chemistry, body condition, or ion concentrations predominated laboratory studies; population- and assemblage-level responses measuring abundance, spatial distribution, or assemblage composition predominated field studies. Negative responses to salinization predominated but positive and unimodal responses were apparent across all taxa and organizational levels. Key topics for further research include a) salinity responses by more taxa, b) responses to especially toxic ions (i.e., potassium, bicarbonate, sulfate, magnesium), c) mechanisms causing positive and unimodal responses, d) traits underpinning responses, e) effects transcending organizational levels, f) ion-specific response thresholds, and g) interactions between salinity and other stressors. Our review suggests inter-taxa variation in sensitivity to salinization reflects occurrence of certain biological traits, including gill-breathing, semi-permeable skin, multiple life stages, and limited mobility. We propose a traits-based framework to predict salinization sensitivity from shared traits. This evolutionary approach could inform management aimed at preventing or reducing adverse impacts of freshwater salinization.
salinization effects,freshwater,focal motivations
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