The effects of herbicide, insecticide, and fertilizer inputs on the common buttercup Ranunculus acris in field margins were studied in an experimental field study. The test design allowed us to investigate the single and combined effects of repeated herbicide, insecticide, and fertilizer applications in successive growing seasons. To assess the effects of the agrochemical applications on R. acris, plant community assessments were carried out and a photodocumentation of the flowering intensity was performed over two years. In addition, the authors conducted a monitoring survey of R. acris in field margins in the proximity of the study site. In the field experiment, R. acris plant density decreased significantly with treatments including fertilizer. The herbicide caused a sublethal effect by reducing flower intensity by 85%. In the long run, both effects will result in a decline of R. acris and lead to shifts in plant communities in field margins. This was confirmed by the monitoring survey, where R. acris could hardly be observed in field margins directly adjacent to cereal fields, whereas in margins next to meadows the species was recorded frequently. Besides the implications for the plants, the sublethal effects may also affect many flower-visiting insects. The results indicate that the current risk assessment for nontarget plants is insufficiently protective for wild plant species in field margins and that consideration of sublethal effects is crucial to preserve biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:1124–1131. © 2013 SETAC
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