Scientists warn about the effects of insecticides in European streams

According to the results of a project carried out by German scientists, pollution caused by improper use of insecticides may result in a significant increase in the levels of contamination of watercourses in Europe. The study also proposes the creation of buffer zones along the streams to help reduce the presence of insecticides.

The results of this study carried out by scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have been published in the journal Ecological Applications, and show that the use of insecticides for agricultural purposes can seriously jeopardize European rivers and streams. After making comparisons of estimated changes in climate and land use, project members concluded that the use of such substances may cause large areas to become part in the coming years of the 40% of the land surface where streams do not have an optimal ecological situation.

According to the results of the study, it will be difficult to meet the objectives set by the water Directive 2000/60/EC regarding the maintenance and guarantee of chemical and ecological status of water streams in the European Union. In this regard, the study stresses the importance of reducing the exposure of European rivers to pesticides and recommends the creation of buffer zones along the streams. These buffer zones would help to reduce the amount of pesticides that rain washes into rivers from fields, and would become a refuge for endangered species.

These measures are especially necessary in light of the correlation between rising temperatures and the presence of insects. According to the study, higher temperatures will cause an increase in the rates of growth and survival of insects, which would also result in an increased use of insecticides. Estimates show that the use of insecticides would be multiplied by 23 in Europe, depending on the degree of increased temperature and changes in land use predictable.

For the purposes of the study, scientists from the Helmholtz team calculated the amount of insecticides used, crop species and land use, and then distilled the results into maps. They compared the baseline of more than twenty years, with a projected 2090 climate.