Dynamics and environmental risk assessment of the herbicide glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA in a small vineyard river of the Lake Geneva catchment


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The use of pesticides may lead to environmental problems, such as surface water pollution, with a risk for aquatic organisms. In the present study, a typical vineyard river of western Switzerland was first monitored to measure discharged loads, identify sources, and assess the dynamic of the herbicide glyphosate and its metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA). Second, based on river concentrations, an associated environmental risk was calculated using laboratory tests and ecotoxicity data from the literature. Measured concentrations confirmed the mobility of these molecules with elevated peaks during flood events, up to 4970 ng/L. From April 2011 to September 2011, a total load of 7.1 kg was calculated, with 85% coming from vineyards and minor urban sources and 15% from arable crops. Compared with the existing literature, this load represents an important fraction (6–12%) of the estimated amount applied because of the steep vineyard slopes (∼10%). The associated risk of these compounds toward aquatic species was found to be negligible in the present study, as well as for other rivers in Switzerland. A growth stimulation was nevertheless observed for the algae Scenedesmus vacuolatus with low concentrations of glyphosate, which could indicate a risk of perturbation in aquatic ecosystems, such as eutrophication. The combination of field and ecotoxicity data allowed the performance of a realistic risk assessment for glyphosate and AMPA, which should be applied to other pesticide molecules. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2035–2044. © 2013 SETAC