Escalating Use of Pesticides Harms Already Imperiled Aquatic Invertebrates
A new analysis published this month by U.S. Geological Survey scientists found pesticides at high enough concentrations to harm already imperiled aquatic invertebrates in more than half of 100 streams studied in the Midwest and Great Plains. The pesticide levels threaten species like the Hine's emerald dragonfly and the sheepnose mussel.
The U.S. Geological Survey study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found an average of 54 pesticides in each stream in both agricultural and urban areas, spotlighting the ever-broadening contamination of waterways caused by the nation's escalating use of pesticides.
"This study exposes the hidden harm of our increasing addiction to pesticides," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "When we see pesticides doing this kind of widespread harm to aquatic animals, we can be sure it has dangerous cascading effects on the entire web of life, including humans."
The analysis of 228 pesticide compounds in 100 streams over a 14-week period in 2013 documented the most complex pesticide mixtures yet reported in U.S. water samples. The waterways included in the study are in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Surprising among the findings was that the concentrations and incidences of some pesticides, including glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup—imidacloprid and 2,4-D, were higher in urban waterways than in agricultural settings.
At least one pesticide in more than half of the 100 streams sampled in the Midwest exceeded a toxicity threshold predicted to cause harm to aquatic insects and other stream organisms, ranging from acute effects in 12 streams to chronic effects in 41 streams.USGS
"The finding that many of these pesticides are more prevalent in urban waterways than in rural streams shows the escalating risks of dumping millions of pounds of chemicals on the landscape every year," said Donley. "We simply can't keep pretending it's safe to spray more and more poisons on our fields, gardens and waterways."
The analysis comes as a federal court in California is considering a lawsuit filed by conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, urging common-sense measures to prevent dangerous pesticides from harming endangered species like California condors, black-footed ferrets, arroyo toads, Indiana bats and Alabama sturgeon. Evaluations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clearly show that imperiled wildlife continue to be threatened by pesticides.
The study is the first of five regional assessments by U.S. Geological Survey scientists of pesticide pollution of streams. The others regions are the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast and California.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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