Agricultural pesticide use and its associated environmental harms is widespread throughout much of the world. Efforts to mitigate this harm have largely been focused on reducing pesticide contamination of the water and air, as runoff and pesticide drift are the most significant sources of offsite pesticide movement. Yet pesticide contamination of the soil can also result in environmental harm. Pesticides are often applied directly to soil as drenches and granules and increasingly in the form of seed coatings, making it important to understand how pesticides impact soil ecosystems. Soils contain an abundance of biologically diverse organisms that perform many important functions such as nutrient cycling, soil structure maintenance, carbon transformation, and the regulation of pests and diseases. Many terrestrial invertebrates have declined in recent decades. Habitat loss and agrichemical pollution due to agricultural intensification have been identified as major driving factors. Here, we review nearly 400 studies on the effects of pesticides on non-target invertebrates that have egg, larval, or immature development in the soil. This review encompasses 275 unique species, taxa or combined taxa of soil organisms and 284 different pesticide active ingredients or unique mixtures of active ingredients. We identified and extracted relevant data in relation to the following endpoints: mortality, abundance, biomass, behavior, reproduction, biochemical biomarkers, growth, richness and diversity, and structural changes. This resulted in an analysis of over 2,800 separate “tested parameters,” measured as a change in a specific endpoint following exposure of a specific organism to a specific pesticide. We found that 70.5% of tested parameters showed negative effects, whereas 1.4% and 28.1% of tested parameters showed positive or no significant effects from pesticide exposure, respectively. In addition, we discuss general effect trends among pesticide classes, taxa, and endpoints, as well as data gaps. Our review indicates that pesticides of all types pose a clear hazard to soil invertebrates. Negative effects are evident in both lab and field studies, across all studied pesticide classes, and in a wide variety of soil organisms and endpoints. The prevalence of negative effects in our results underscores the need for soil organisms to be represented in any risk analysis of a pesticide that has the potential to contaminate soil, and for any significant risk to be mitigated in a way that will specifically reduce harm to soil organisms and to the many important ecosystem services they provide.
Frontiers in Environmental Science
Tari Gunstone u.a.