Impact of an insecticide changes with amount of leaf litter input: Implications for amphibian populations



Changes in percentage of forest cover can influence nutrient levels in aquatic systems and change abiotic conditions that may influence species. The authors examined how increasing amounts of leaf litter influenced toxicity of the insecticide carbaryl using larval green frogs (Rana clamitans) in outdoor mesocosm ponds. Insecticides can have direct negative effects on individual physiology and behavior and indirect effects on the food web, which can result in trophic cascades. They predicted that direct effects of the insecticide would dominate when nutrients were low (resulting in negative impacts on amphibian development and survival), whereas indirect effects could offset direct effects when nutrients were more abundant through a trophic cascade that leads to more food for tadpoles (resulting in positive effects on amphibian development and survival). The authors found support for this hypothesis: first, total green frog survival was greatest with increased leaf litter input in the presence of carbaryl. Additionally, most green frogs that reached metamorphosis were from ponds with high leaf litter input and carbaryl. Second, the impact of carbaryl on developmental stage and tadpole mass varied depending on the amount of leaf litter present. With high amounts of leaf litter, carbaryl had a positive impact on development and growth; in contrast, with low amounts of leaf litter, carbaryl had negative or no effects on tadpole development and mass. The present study suggests that differences in nutrient levels between ponds exposed to pesticides could play a role in amphibian population dynamics. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012; 31: 1518–1524. © 2012 SETAC