Integrative analysis of the influence of pesticides and land use on biodiversity in Germany (INPEDIV)

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Project description

Biodiversity loss has become a global phenomenon, and in temporal regions it is especially recognised in the agricultural landscape. This is not only true for the agricultural are, the crops and grasslands but also for conservation areas within. A study by expert taxonomists of the Entomological Society Krefeld (EVK) based on comprehensive data from decades of standardized insect monitoring provided compelling evidence for a dramatic loss of more than 70% of insect biomass in Germany in the past 27 years (Hallmann et al. 2017), even in landscapes that should be unaffected by human impact (such as in protected areas). The exact drivers of biodiversity loss are not sufficiently examined, changes in nutrient and pesticides inputs might be highly relevant.

The joint research project INPEDIV by the Leibniz Research Alliance on Biodiversity (LVB), managed by Livia Schäffler at the Museum Alexander König in Bonn comprising seven internal and external partner institutions, aims at testing the hypothesis that massive biodiversity losses in the German landscape are to a large extent side effects of pesticide use. The project focus is on protected areas, where consequences of pesticide contamination for biodiversity across several taxonomic groups has not yet been examined. The research project combines the expertise of taxonomists, molecular biodiversity researchers, landscape ecologists and ecotoxicologists for the first integrative study on consequences of agricultural land use for a broad range of species across trophic levels, from plants to insects to bats and was also highlighted in Science  and a documentary. It includes traditional approaches (e.g. vegetation surveys and population assessments in animals) as well as new methods (e.g. metabarcoding, acoustic surveys, remote sensing by drones, trace level pesticide analysis) along transects of decreasing anthropogenic impact. The project also comprehensively surveys a broad range of above- and below-ground species assemblages from plants to invertebrates and vertebrates at research sites in two areas in Germany. By selecting appropriate farming types, the research project allows to examine consequences of organic and conventional farming for ecological communities across trophic levels in consideration of landscape context and history.

Our team is responsible for the pesticide analysis of samples from soil and vegetation collected along a gradient from the arable fields to the core of the conservation area. We use a multiresidue method that allows the quantitation of pesticides at trace levels. A selection of over 100 of the most commonly current used pesticides (CUPs) are included in the analysis. The results of this project part allow a first assessment of realistic exposure of organisms in conservation areas situated in the agricultural landscapes of Germany.