Diamant, Eleanor S.; Sada Boyd; Natalie Ann Lozano-Huntelman; Vivien Enriquez; Alexis R. Kim; Van M. Savage and Pamela J. Yeh

Although natural populations are typically subjected to multiple stressors, most past research has focused on single-stressor and two-stressor interactions, with little attention paid to higher-order interactions among three or more stressors. However, higher-order interactions increasingly appear to be widespread. Consequently, we used a recently introduced and improved framework to re-analyze higher-order ecological interactions. We conducted a literature review of the last 100 years (1920-2020) and reanalyzed 142 ecological three-stressor interactions on species' populations from 38 published papers; the vast majority of these studies were from the past 10 years. We found that 95.8 % (n = 136) of the three stressor combinations had either not been categorized before or resulted in different interactions than previously reported. We also found substantial levels of emergent properties-interactions that are not due to strong pairwise interactions within the combination but rather uniquely due to all three stressors being combined. Calculating net interactions-the overall accounting for all possible interactions within a combination including the emergent and all pairwise interactions-we found that the most prevalent interaction type is antagonism, corresponding to a smaller than expected effect based on single stressor effects. In contrast, for emergent interactions, the most prevalent interaction type is synergistic, resulting in a larger than expected effect based on single stressor effects. Additionally, we found that hidden suppressive interactions-where a pairwise interaction is suppressed by a third stressor-are found in the majority of combinations (74 %). Collectively, understanding multiple stressor interactions through applying an appropriate framework is crucial for answering fundamental questions in ecology and has implications for conservation biology and population management. Crucially, identifying emergent properties can reveal hidden suppressive interactions that could be particularly important for the ecological management of at-risk populations.