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Pesticides significantly reduce biodiversity in aquatic environments

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Posted June 18, 2013
Insect species such as the Common Bluetail (Ischnura senegalensis) are particularly threatened by pesticide entries in their habitat. Credit: André Künzelmann/UFZ (Place: Banaue/Phillippines)

Insect species such as the Common Bluetail (Ischnura senegalensis) are particularly threatened by pesticide entries in their habitat. Credit: André Künzelmann/UFZ (Place: Banaue/Phillippines)

The pesticides, many of which are currently used in Europe and Australia, are responsible for reducing the regional diversity of invertebrates in streams and rivers by up to 42 percent, researchers report in the Proceedings of the US Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Mikhail A. Beketov and Matthias Liess from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, together with Ben Kefford from the University of Technology, Sydney and Ralf B. Schäfer from the Institute for Environmental Sciences Landau, analysed the impact of pesticides, such as insecticides and fungicides, on the regional biodiversity of invertebrates in flowing waters using data from Germany, France and Victoria in Australia. The authors of the now-published study state that this is the first ever study which has investigated the effects of pesticides on regional biodiversity.

Pesticides, for example those used in agriculture, are among the most-investigated and regulated groups of pollutants. However, until now it was not known whether, or to which extent, and at what concentrations their use causes a reduction in biodiversity in aquatic environments. The researchers investigated these questions and compared the numbers of species in different regions: in the Hildesheimer Boerde near Braunschweig, in southern Victoria in Australia and in Brittany in France.

In both Europe and Australia, the researchers were able to demonstrate considerable losses in the regional biodiversity of aquatic insects and other freshwater invertebrates. A difference in biodiversity of 42 percent was found between non-contaminated and strongly-contaminated areas in Europe; in Australia, a decrease of 27 percent was demonstrated.

Read more at: Phys.org

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