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Multiple lines of evidence point to pesticides as stressors affecting invertebrate communities in small streams in five United States regions

January 24, 2024

Multistressor studies were performed in five regions of the United States to assess the role of pesticides as stressors affecting invertebrate communities in wadable streams. Pesticides and other chemical and physical stressors were measured in 75 to 99 streams per region for 4 weeks, after which invertebrate communities were surveyed (435 total sites). Pesticides were sampled weekly in filtered water, and once in bed sediment. The role of pesticides as a stressor to invertebrate communities was assessed by evaluating multiple lines of evidence: toxicity predictions based on measured pesticide concentrations, multivariate models and other statistical analyses, and previously published mesocosm experiments. Toxicity predictions using benchmarks and species sensitivity distributions and statistical correlations suggested that pesticides were present at high enough concentrations to adversely affect invertebrate communities at the regional scale. Two undirected techniques—boosted regression tree models and distance-based linear models—identified which pesticides were predictors of (respectively) invertebrate metrics and community composition. To put insecticides in context with known, influential covariates of invertebrate response, generalized additive models were used to identify which individual pesticide(s) were important predictors of invertebrate community condition in each region, after accounting for natural covariates. Four insecticides were identified as stressors to invertebrate communities at the regional scale: bifenthrin, chlordane, fipronil and its degradates, and imidacloprid. Fipronil was particularly important in the Southeast region, and imidacloprid, bifenthrin, and chlordane were important in multiple regions. For imidacloprid, bifenthrin, and fipronil, toxicity predictions were supported by mesocosm experiments that demonstrated adverse effects on naïve aquatic communities when dosed under controlled conditions. These multiple lines of evidence do not prove causality—which is challenging in the field under multistressor conditions—but they make a strong case for the role of insecticides as stressors adversely affecting invertebrate communities in streams within the five sampled regions.

Publication Year 2024
Title Multiple lines of evidence point to pesticides as stressors affecting invertebrate communities in small streams in five United States regions
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.169634
Authors Lisa H. Nowell, Patrick W. Moran, Ian R. Waite, Travis S. Schmidt, Paul M. Bradley, Barbara J. Mahler, Peter Van Metre
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70251268
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center; Oregon Water Science Center; South Atlantic Water Science Center; WMA - Earth System Processes Division