Results of mesocosm and field studies with cypermethrin and esfenvalerate were analyzed and interpreted to support an ecological risk assessment of cotton pyrethroids in aquatic ecosystems. A core group of seven mesocosm studies conducted on two continents over the course of a decade were examined, and additional observations from mesocosm and field studies with these and other cotton pyrethroids were also brought to bear. The results for cypermethrin and esfenvalerate were remarkably consistent. They revealed a trend in sensitivity from amphipods, isopods, midges, mayflies, copepods, and cladocerans (most sensitive) to fish, snails, oligochaetes, and rotifers (least sensitive). With few exceptions, populations affected by pyrethroids in the mesocosms recovered to normal levels before the end of the year of exposure; most populations recovered within weeks. Factors presumed responsible for population recovery included internal refuges (areas of low exposure), resistant life stages, rapid generation times, and egg deposition by adults from outside the treated systems. Indirect effects on fish (which have been hypothesized to occur when invertebrate food sources are reduced) were not observed. The lowest-observed-adverse-effect concentrations for the overall ecosystems for cypermethrin and esfenvalerate corresponded to the 54th and 41st centiles of acute toxicity endpoints (LC50s) for arthropods measured in laboratory studies with these compounds, implying that a risk characterization based on 10th centiles would be highly conservative.
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