Pesticides and farm fertilizers can damage development and survival of amphibians, a new Oregon State University study reveals.
In the first attempt at a large scale summary of negative effects of specific chemicals on amphibians, four classes of agrochemicals "significantly" reduce amphibian survival, say researchers in a study co-authored by OSU wildlife science associate professor Tiffany Garcia.
"Billions of tons of agrochemicals are used in farming every year," she says. "Any disruption to frog, toad, and salamander communities has clear negative impacts on biodiversity and can also set off a domino effect throughout the ecosystem by damaging the food base for amphibian predators, including birds, snakes and fish."
Chloropyridinyls, inorganic fertilizers, carbamates and organophosphates can harm the amphibians, the study finds.
Agrochemicals are the most damaging to amphibians in the egg and larval stages. They are especially vulnerable to pesticides and fertilizers since they live on land and in water and can come into contact with agrochemicals by both direct exposure and runoff into aquatic systems
"Farmers can be, and often are, the best naturalists we have," says Garcia. "Mixing agricultural production with wildlife management is vital to the survival of amphibians, especially with agricultural intensity growing to feed our booming global human population."
Springtime is a time for heavy agricultural applications, she notes, and it is also when amphibians lay eggs and develop as larvae and tadpoles. "By modifying application schedules, growers can limit contact between sensitive wildlife species and harmful chemicals," says Garcia.
The study was published earlier this year in the journal "Science of the Total Environment." The probe was funded by the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU, and a grant from the USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project.
Assisting in the study was OSU grad student Nick Baker and Betsy Bancroft of Southern Utah University.