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Effects of species-specific interactions with predation risk on the relative species sensitivities to a pesticide in water boatmen (Corixidae)


H. Trekels, Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, K. U. Leuven, Ch. Deberiotstraat 32, BE–3000 Leuven, Belgium. E-mail:


There is increasing concern that synergistic interactions between stressors may result in accelerated biodiversity loss. Yet, the prevalence and magnitude of these interactions remain one of the largest uncertainties in projections of future ecological change. Synergistic interactions between pesticide stress and predation risk are receiving increasing attention because they indicate that standard pesticide tests in the absence of predation risk may underestimate effects that occur under natural conditions. We questioned whether synergisms (or interactions in general), by differently shaping individual species’ sensitivities, can modulate species sensitivity rankings (SSRs) in survival and growth rate. Using laboratory and outdoor mesocosm experiments with five species of water boatmen (Hemiptera: Corixidae) we studied mortality and growth rate over seven days of exposure. We evaluated the presence and nature of interactions between the pesticide endosulfan and predation risk and tested to what extent this affected the SSRs to endosulfan. The combined exposure to the pesticide and predation risk resulted in synergistic effects for survival (Sigara lateralis) and growth rate (Sigara iactans) and in an antagonistic effect for growth rate (Hesperocorixa linnaei and female Sigara striata). These results suggest that standard tests may underestimate the pesticide effect in a natural predator environment for some species. While the effects of these interactions on SSRs were not strong and SSRs remained largely similar in the absence and presence of predation risk, some obvious species rank shifts occurred for growth rate which may potentially affect community structure through changed competitive strength. The study of SSRs and their dependency on biotic stressors may provide a simple conceptual and predictive framework to increase our understanding of how stressors like pesticides may differentially affect community structure in the absence and presence of another stressor.