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Effects of fungicides on decomposer communities and litter decomposition in streams

  • Agriculture covers one third of the world land area and has become a major source of water pollution due to its heavy reliance on chemical inputs, namely fertilisers and pesticides. Several thousands of tonnes of these chemicals are applied worldwide annually and partly reach freshwaters. Despite their widespread use and relatively unspecific modes of action, fungicides are the least studied group of pesticides. It remains unclear whether the taxonomic groups used in pesticide risk assessment are protective for non-target freshwater fungi. Fungi and bacteria are the main microbial decomposers converting allochthonous organic matter (litter) into a more nutritious food resource for leaf-shredding macroinvertebrates. This process of litter decomposition (LD) is central for aquatic ecosystem because it fuels local and downstream food webs with energy and nutrients. Effects of fungicides on decomposer communities and LD have been mainly analysed under laboratory conditions with limited representation of the multiple factors that may moderate effects in the field. In this thesis a field study was conducted in a German vineyard area to characterise recurrent episodic exposure to fungicides in agricultural streams (chapter 2) and its effects on decomposer communities and LD (chapter 3). Additionally, potential interaction effects of nutrient enrichment and fungicides on decomposer communities and LD were analysed in a mesocosm experiment (chapter 4). In the field study event-driven water sampling (EDS) and passive sampling with EmporeTM styrene-divinylbenzene reverse phase sulfonated disks (SDB disks) were used to assess exposure to 15 fungicides and 4 insecticides. A total of 17 streams were monitored during 4 rainfall events within the local application period of fungicides in 2012. EDS exceeded the time-weighted average concentrations provided by the SDB disks by a factor of 3, though high variability among compounds was observed. Most compounds were detected in more than half of the sites and mean and maximum peak (EDS) concentrations were under 1 and 3 µg/l, respectively. Besides, SDB disk-sampling rates and a free-software solution to derive sampling rates under time-variable exposure were provided. Several biotic endpoints related to decomposers and LD were measured in the same sampling sites as the fungicide monitoring, coinciding with the major litter input period. Our results suggest that polar organic fungicides in streams change the structure of the fungal community. Causality of this finding was supported by a subsequent microcosm experiment. Whether other effects observed in the field study, such as reduced fungal biomass, increased bacterial density or reduced microbial LD can be attributed to fungicides remains speculative and requires further investigation. By contrast, neither the invertebrate LD nor in-situ measured gammarid feeding rates correlated with water-borne fungicide toxicity, but both were negatively associated with sediment copper concentrations. The mesocosm experiment showed that fungicides and nutrients affect microbial decomposers differently and that they can alter community structure, though longer experiments are needed to determine whether these changes may propagate to invertebrate communities and LD. Overall, further studies should include representative field surveys in terms of fungicide pollution and physical, chemical and biological conditions. This should be combined with experiments under controlled conditions to test for the causality of field observations.

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Author:Diego Fernández González
Referee:Ralf Schäfer, Mirco Bundschuh
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2016/05/26
Date of publication:2016/07/07
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Fachbereich 7
Date of final exam:2016/04/29
Release Date:2016/07/07
Tag:decomposition; ecotoxicology; fungicide; pesticide; stream
Number of pages:vi, 122
Institutes:Fachbereich 7
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 50 Naturwissenschaften / 500 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik
BKL-Classification:30 Naturwissenschaften allgemein / 30.99 Naturwissenschaften allgemein: Sonstiges
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG