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      Neonicotinoids disrupt aquatic food webs and decrease fishery yields

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      Science

      American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

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          Abstract

          Invertebrate declines are widespread in terrestrial ecosystems, and pesticide use is often cited as a causal factor. Here, we report that aquatic systems are threatened by the high toxicity and persistence of neonicotinoid insecticides. These effects cascade to higher trophic levels by altering food web structure and dynamics, affecting higher-level consumers. Using data on zooplankton, water quality, and annual fishery yields of eel and smelt, we show that neonicotinoid application to watersheds since 1993 coincided with an 83% decrease in average zooplankton biomass in spring, causing the smelt harvest to collapse from 240 to 22 tons in Lake Shinji, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. This disruption likely also occurs elsewhere, as neonicotinoids are currently the most widely used class of insecticides globally.

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          Most cited references 18

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          Neonicotinoid contamination of global surface waters and associated risk to aquatic invertebrates: a review.

          Neonicotinoids, broad-spectrum systemic insecticides, are the fastest growing class of insecticides worldwide and are now registered for use on hundreds of field crops in over 120 different countries. The environmental profile of this class of pesticides indicate that they are persistent, have high leaching and runoff potential, and are highly toxic to a wide range of invertebrates. Therefore, neonicotinoids represent a significant risk to surface waters and the diverse aquatic and terrestrial fauna that these ecosystems support. This review synthesizes the current state of knowledge on the reported concentrations of neonicotinoids in surface waters from 29 studies in 9 countries world-wide in tandem with published data on their acute and chronic toxicity to 49 species of aquatic insects and crustaceans spanning 12 invertebrate orders. Strong evidence exists that water-borne neonicotinoid exposures are frequent, long-term and at levels (geometric means=0.13μg/L (averages) and 0.63μg/L (maxima)) which commonly exceed several existing water quality guidelines. Imidacloprid is by far the most widely studied neonicotinoid (66% of the 214 toxicity tests reviewed) with differences in sensitivity among aquatic invertebrate species ranging several orders of magnitude; other neonicotinoids display analogous modes of action and similar toxicities, although comparative data are limited. Of the species evaluated, insects belonging to the orders Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera and Diptera appear to be the most sensitive, while those of Crustacea (although not universally so) are less sensitive. In particular, the standard test species Daphnia magna appears to be very tolerant, with 24-96hour LC50 values exceeding 100,000μg/L (geometric mean>44,000μg/L), which is at least 2-3 orders of magnitude higher than the geometric mean of all other invertebrate species tested. Overall, neonicotinoids can exert adverse effects on survival, growth, emergence, mobility, and behavior of many sensitive aquatic invertebrate taxa at concentrations at or below 1μg/L under acute exposure and 0.1μg/L for chronic exposure. Using probabilistic approaches (species sensitivity distributions), we recommend here that ecological thresholds for neonicotinoid water concentrations need to be below 0.2μg/L (short-term acute) or 0.035μg/L (long-term chronic) to avoid lasting effects on aquatic invertebrate communities. The application of safety factors may still be warranted considering potential issues of slow recovery, additive or synergistic effects and multiple stressors that can occur in the field. Our analysis revealed that 81% (22/27) and 74% (14/19) of global surface water studies reporting maximum and average individual neonicotinoid concentrations respectively, exceeded these thresholds of 0.2 and 0.035μg/L. Therefore, it appears that environmentally relevant concentrations of neonicotinoids in surface waters worldwide are well within the range where both short- and long-term impacts on aquatic invertebrate species are possible over broad spatial scales.
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            Risks of large-scale use of systemic insecticides to ecosystem functioning and services

            Large-scale use of the persistent and potent neonicotinoid and fipronil insecticides has raised concerns about risks to ecosystem functions provided by a wide range of species and environments affected by these insecticides. The concept of ecosystem services is widely used in decision making in the context of valuing the service potentials, benefits, and use values that well-functioning ecosystems provide to humans and the biosphere and, as an endpoint (value to be protected), in ecological risk assessment of chemicals. Neonicotinoid insecticides are frequently detected in soil and water and are also found in air, as dust particles during sowing of crops and aerosols during spraying. These environmental media provide essential resources to support biodiversity, but are known to be threatened by long-term or repeated contamination by neonicotinoids and fipronil. We review the state of knowledge regarding the potential impacts of these insecticides on ecosystem functioning and services provided by terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems including soil and freshwater functions, fisheries, biological pest control, and pollination services. Empirical studies examining the specific impacts of neonicotinoids and fipronil to ecosystem services have focused largely on the negative impacts to beneficial insect species (honeybees) and the impact on pollination service of food crops. However, here we document broader evidence of the effects on ecosystem functions regulating soil and water quality, pest control, pollination, ecosystem resilience, and community diversity. In particular, microbes, invertebrates, and fish play critical roles as decomposers, pollinators, consumers, and predators, which collectively maintain healthy communities and ecosystem integrity. Several examples in this review demonstrate evidence of the negative impacts of systemic insecticides on decomposition, nutrient cycling, soil respiration, and invertebrate populations valued by humans. Invertebrates, particularly earthworms that are important for soil processes, wild and domestic insect pollinators which are important for plant and crop production, and several freshwater taxa which are involved in aquatic nutrient cycling, were all found to be highly susceptible to lethal and sublethal effects of neonicotinoids and/or fipronil at environmentally relevant concentrations. By contrast, most microbes and fish do not appear to be as sensitive under normal exposure scenarios, though the effects on fish may be important in certain realms such as combined fish-rice farming systems and through food chain effects. We highlight the economic and cultural concerns around agriculture and aquaculture production and the role these insecticides may have in threatening food security. Overall, we recommend improved sustainable agricultural practices that restrict systemic insecticide use to maintain and support several ecosystem services that humans fundamentally depend on.
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              A Stable Isotope Study on Seasonal Food Web Dynamics in a Eutrophic Lake

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Science
                Science
                American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
                0036-8075
                1095-9203
                October 31 2019
                November 01 2019
                October 31 2019
                November 01 2019
                : 366
                : 6465
                : 620-623
                Article
                10.1126/science.aax3442
                © 2019

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