Consistent effects of pesticides on community structure and ecosystem function in freshwater systems

Samantha L. Rumschlag, Michael B. Mahon, Jason T. Hoverman, Thomas R. Raffel, Hunter J. Carrick, Peter J. Hudson, Jason R. Rohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Predicting ecological effects of contaminants remains challenging because of the sheer number of chemicals and their ambiguous role in biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships. We evaluate responses of experimental pond ecosystems to standardized concentrations of 12 pesticides, nested in four pesticide classes and two pesticide types. We show consistent effects of herbicides and insecticides on ecosystem function, and slightly less consistent effects on community composition. Effects of pesticides on ecosystem function are mediated by alterations in the abundance and community composition of functional groups. Through bottom-up effects, herbicides reduce respiration and primary productivity by decreasing the abundance of phytoplankton. The effects of insecticides on respiration and primary productivity of phytoplankton are driven by top-down effects on zooplankton composition and abundance, but not richness. By demonstrating consistent effects of pesticides on communities and ecosystem functions and linking pesticide-induced changes in functional groups of organisms to ecosystem functions, the study suggests that ecological risk assessment of registered chemicals could be simplified to synthetic chemical classes or types and groups of organisms with similar functions and chemical toxicities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6333
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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