Negative impacts of neonicotinoids in aquatic environments are a reality

Recent monitoring studies in several countries have revealed a world-wide contamination of creeks, rivers and lakes with neonicotinoid insecticides, with residue levels in the low μg/L (ppb) range. At least two main areas of concern can be identified: reduced capacity for decomposition of organic debris by aquatic organisms and starvation of insectivores and other vertebrate fauna that depend on invertebrates as a major or only food source. The fact that litter decomposition by stoneflies, crane flies, mayflies and amphipods is significantly reduced by concentrations of neonicotinoids that are currently found in many aquatic environments is of concern.

Neonicotinoids do not cause fish mortality directly, but because aquatic invertebrates are a rich food source for many species of fish, depletion and disappearance of this source in waters contaminated with neonicotinoids could affect fish stocks in freshwater ecosystems. In the Netherlands, where residues of imidacloprid in water are the highest in the world, correlations between such residues and the decline of arthropod taxa such as Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Diptera and some crustaceans have been found.

Many of the vertebrates living around rivers, lakes and ponds are insectivorous species that depend almost exclusively on aquatic invertebrates as their food source: frogs, newts, skinks and lizards, a large array of birds including passerines and waders, bats and shrews. All these animals, whether terrestrial or amphibian, draw their food from flying insects, their aquatic larvae, crustaceans and worms that live in the water environment. Consequently, the depletion of this food source must necessarily affect them.

Source: Sánchez-Bayo F, Goka K and Hayasaka D (2016) Contamination of the Aquatic Environment with Neonicotinoids and its Implication for Ecosystems. Front. Environ. Sci. 4:71. doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2016.00071