Characterizing the risk of pesticide use on amphibian and reptile populations based on multiple, ecologically relevant responses

Environmental pollution is recognized as one of the major causes involved in amphibian and reptile declines, in spite of which these animals have not been traditionally considered in risk assessment of some pollutants like pesticides, being supposedly protected through data retrieved from other vertebrate taxa. The development of the Regulation (EC) 1107/2009 concerning the placing of Plant Protection Products on the market has recently established that amphibians and reptiles must be considered in risk assessments in terrestrial scenarios, being amphibian aquatic stages supposedly covered by fish-derived data.


The current situation faces two problems: on the one hand, reptiles and terrestrial amphibian stages must be tested as part of risk assessment that manufacturers must conduct before their products can be approved, according to EU Regulations 283/2013 and 284/2013, but because of the large information gaps in this contexts, there are not internationally-approved standardized protocols for chemical industry doing so. Therefore, a clear necessity for developing and validating methodologies useful to test pesticide toxicity on these animals exists. On the other hand, amphibian aquatic stages are still supposedly covered by fish-derived data, but available information in this regard is not clear enough, and whereas some reviews support that fish would indeed cover aquatic amphibians, other suggest that available information is still scarce to get relevant conclusions. One of the main limitations of the amphibian vs. fish comparisons is that they are usually restricted to the most common lethal or growth-related responses, while relevant endpoints at the physiological level are often ignored.


HerPesti project aims at clarifying uncertainties in the current situation of amphibians and reptiles within the EU legislative framework concerning agricultural pesticides and, if necessary, developing possible remediation measures. With this purpose, we will identify, on the one hand, the impact of pesticides on amphibian and reptile populations using ecologically relevant endpoints indicative of population status and viability, such as reproductive and social behaviours, immune response and pathogen resistance. A field monitoring in areas of pesticide use will serve to characterize the exposure in realistic scenarios. These endpoints might be further incorporated to a standardized toxicity testing procedure. On the other hand, we will test the degree of protection that current risk assessment protocols confer to amphibians in aquatic scenarios by comparing exposure risk and effects on native species, based again on ecologically relevant scenarios, with effects on surrogate taxa.

This project pursues the establishment of a fluent communication with industry and government sectors, providing the former with protocols to efficiently evaluate pesticide risks on amphibians and reptiles, and the latter with decision-making tools.

Dissemination and Results


Dr. Manuel E. Ortiz Santaliestra

Opportunities for Master Theses within HerPesti Project