How dangerous are plant protection products?

Researchers predict ecology risks in Europe

Altered land use and the use of fertilizers can have dramatic consequences for ecosystems. Many processes in nature are temperature dependent. Global climate change will therefore also affect the distribution of chemicals. © André Künzelmann / UFZ
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Pesticides from agriculture can threaten the wildlife of small rivers and streams. However, the danger of "washing off" the chemical substances during rain or other precipitation is much greater in agricultural landscapes in southern Europe than in ours. Particularly at risk are regions in Spain, Italy and southern France. This is what Leipzig researchers discovered in a new study. In it they modeled the entry of pesticides and the resulting ecological risk for the fauna of small streams in the 15 "old" EU countries.

Dangers threatened however also waters in England, Belgium as well as in parts of central Germany in the north of Thuringia, in the southern Saxony-Anhalt and in the middle Saxon mountain country by the use of pesticides in the agriculture, so the scientists of the Helmholtz center for environmental research (UFZ) in the current Issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment. The forecasts were then successfully verified by field studies in Finland, France and Germany.

"Our aim was to identify potential risk regions in a timely and cost-effective manner, which would make sense to carry out detailed modeling or measurement programs, " says Carola Schriever from the UFZ. "Such a model can, for example, be very helpful in planning larger monitoring campaigns, as required by the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive."

Conference "Substance evaluation in a changing environment"

What effects do changes in land use, the shift of climatic and vegetation zones or extreme weather events have on the distribution and availability of pesticides and other chemicals in the environment? What risks can this pose for ecosystems? Over 270 scientists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland will discuss the consequences of global change for the environmental risk of various substances in Leipzig. The annual conference of the German-speaking branch of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) will be held there from 12 to 14 September 2007 at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). The aim of SETAC is to promote research and education in the fields of ecotoxicology and environmental chemistry to solve chemical-related environmental problems.

To test the model, Ralf Sch fer from the UFZ investigated pesticide contamination in surface waters at two sites in France and Finland. Von Peter von der Ohe / UFZ

An increasingly important issue is the impact of global change on substance evaluation. The task of ecotoxicologists, environmental chemists and related disciplines is to identify and mitigate such risks in a timely manner. The annual meeting of the SETAC-GLB, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2007, is themed "Substance evaluation in a changing environment". The scientific program will be dedicated to assessing the environmental risks of, for example, chemical mixtures or nanoparticles, as well as possible regulatory measures. The special feature of the conference is that representatives from science, authorities and industry sit together at one table in order to work out solutions and discuss effects for the practice. display

(idw - Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research - UFZ, 10.09.2007 - DLO)