Roundup® and amphibians: The importance of concentration, application time, and stratification

Authors

  • Devin K. Jones,

    1. 101 Clapp Hall, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA
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  • John I. Hammond,

    1. 101 Clapp Hall, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA
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  • Rick A. Relyea

    Corresponding author
    1. 101 Clapp Hall, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA
    • 101 Clapp Hall, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA.
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Abstract

The widespread use of pesticides raises the possibility that non-target organisms might also be affected. To assess this, the traditional approach has been to conduct short-term laboratory experiments spanning a range of lethal concentrations and some longer-duration experiments at sublethal concentrations. While this approach has been very useful, less attention has been paid to the timing of exposure and the impacts of multiple, small exposures versus single, large exposures. We examined the role of application amount, timing, and frequency using outdoor mesocosm communities containing larval amphibians (Rana sylvatica and Bufo americanus) and using a commercial formulation of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup Original MAX®). Consistent with past studies, exposures of up to 3 mg acid equivalent (a.e.)/L caused substantial amphibian death. However, the amount of death was considerably higher when the herbicide was applied earlier in the experiment than later in the experiment. Single, large applications (at different times) had larger effects on tadpole mortality and growth than multiple, small applications (of the same total amount). The results may reflect an acclimation to the herbicide over time. In treatments with high tadpole mortality, there was no resulting increase in periphyton, suggesting that the reduction in tadpole herbivory might have been offset by direct negative impacts of the herbicide. We also discovered that temperature stratification caused herbicide stratification, with higher concentrations near the surface. Such stratification has important implications to the habitat choices of ectotherms that might prefer surface waters for thermoregulation or prefer deeper waters to avoid predators. Collectively, the present study demonstrates the importance of examining multiple applications times and frequencies to understand the impacts of pesticides on organisms. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:2016–2025. © 2010 SETAC

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