Thresholds for the Effects of Pesticides on Invertebrate Communities and Leaf Breakdown in Stream Ecosystems

R Schäfer, Peter von der Ohe, Jes Rasmussen, Ben Kefford, M Beketov, Ralf Schulz, M Liess

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204 Citations (Scopus)


We compiled data from eight field studies conducted between 1998 and 2010 in Europe, Siberia, and Australia to derive thresholds for the effects of pesticides on macroinvertebrate communities and the ecosystem function leaf breakdown. Dose–response models for the relationship of pesticide toxicity with the abundance of sensitive macroinvertebrate taxa showed significant differences to reference sites at 1/1000 to 1/10?000 of the median acute effect concentration (EC50) for Daphnia magna, depending on the model specification and whether forested upstream sections were present. Hence, the analysis revealed effects well below the threshold of 1/100 of the EC50 for D. magna incorporated in the European Union Uniform Principles (UP) for registration of single pesticides. Moreover, the abundances of sensitive macroinvertebrates in the communities were reduced by 27% to 61% at concentrations related to 1/100 of the EC50 for D. magna. The invertebrate leaf breakdown rate was positively linearly related to the abundance of pesticide-sensitive macroinvertebrate species in the communities, though only for two of the three countries examined. We argue that the low effect thresholds observed were not mainly because of an underestimation of field exposure or confounding factors. From the results gathered we derive that the UP threshold for single pesticides based on D. magna is not protective for field communities subject to multiple stressors, pesticide mixtures, and repeated exposures and that risk mitigation measures, such as forested landscape patches, can alleviate effects of pesticides.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5134-5142
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science Technology (Washington)
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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