Pesticides most important barrier for the recovery of biodiversity on farmland

Jan 28, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Since the early nineties the EU has implemented policies to reduce the dramatic negative effects of the use of pesticides on farmland. Nevertheless, a Europe wide study showed that insecticides and fungicides still had major negative effects on wild plant and animal species on arable farms.

The Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology Group of Wageningen University, The Netherlands - together with eight other universities in West and Eastern Europe - investigated the effects of intensive farming on wild plant and animal species and the potential for biological pest control. The study showed that a two-fold increase in agricultural production was associated with the loss of half of the plant species and one third of the carabid and breeding . Moreover, there were significant negative effects on the capacity for biological control, measured by the number of introduced aphids taken by .

Agricultural intensification has many components at various spatial scales. In many areas agricultural intensification resulted in a loss of landscape diversity. Hedges and many other non-productive landscape elements disappeared, while on the local fields the application of chemical fertilizer and increased. In each of the nine study areas, distributed over West and Eastern Europe, the researchers measured 8 variables that characterized the surrounding landscape en 13 variables that measured the intensity of land use at the farm and local field level. An extensive statistical analysis revealed that the applied amounts of insecticides and were the variables that had consistent negative effects of the plant, beetle and bird and biological control potential.

Organic farms and agri-environment schemes, where less or no harmful pesticides are used, had a positive impact on the number of wild plant and beetle species on farmland, but did not have any effect on the number of breeding bird species. Many bird, mammal, butterfly and bee species utilize large areas for foraging. The consequence is that also the application of pesticides on neighbouring farms can have dramatic effects. Despite decades of European policy to ban harmful pesticides, the negative effects of pesticides on wild plant and animal species persist, at the same time reducing the opportunities for biological pest control. If biodiversity is to be restored in Europe and opportunities are to be created for biological pest control, there must be a Europe-wide shift towards farming with minimal use of pesticides over large areas.

Explore further: Citizen scientists match research tool when counting sharks

More information: Article in Basic and Applied Ecology, Flavia Geigera, Jan Bengtssonb, Frank Berendse, et al. Persistent negative effects of pesticides on biodiversity and biological control potential on European farmland.

Provided by Wageningen University

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Pesticides found in wine

Apr 04, 2008

A European environmental group said pesticides used on grapes were found in 35 of the 40 bottles of wine they tested.

Invasions by alien plants have been mapped in Europe

Jan 22, 2009

Biological invasions are one of the major threats to biodiversity and in many cases they have considerable impact on economy and human health. For their effective management it is important to understand which areas and ecosystems ...

Recommended for you

Invasive vines swallow up New York's natural areas

8 hours ago

(Phys.org) —When Antonio DiTommaso, a Cornell weed ecologist, first spotted pale swallow-wort in 2001, he was puzzled by it. Soon he noticed many Cornell old-field edges were overrun with the weedy vines. ...

Citizen scientists match research tool when counting sharks

23 hours ago

Shark data collected by citizen scientists may be as reliable as data collected using automated tools, according to results published April 23, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Gabriel Vianna from The University of Wes ...

Researchers detail newly discovered deer migration

Apr 23, 2014

A team of researchers including University of Wyoming scientists has documented the longest migration of mule deer ever recorded, the latest development in an initiative to understand and conserve ungulate ...

How Australia got the hump with one million feral camels

Apr 23, 2014

A new study by a University of Exeter researcher has shed light on how an estimated one million-strong population of wild camels thriving in Australia's remote outback have become reviled as pests and culled ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...

Autism Genome Project delivers genetic discovery

A new study from investigators with the Autism Genome Project, the world's largest research project on identifying genes associated with risk for autism, has found that the comprehensive use of copy number variant (CNV) genetic ...