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ARS Home » Plains Area » Brookings, South Dakota » Integrated Cropping Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #343501

Research Project: Productive Cropping Systems Based on Ecological Principles of Pest Management

Location: Integrated Cropping Systems Research

Title: An exposure-based, ecology-driven framework for selection of indicator species for insecticide risk assessment

Author
item Welch, K - Former ARS Employee
item Lundgren, J - Former ARS Employee

Submitted to: FOOD WEBS
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/28/2016
Publication Date: 3/2/2016
Citation: Welch, K.D., Lundgren, J.G. 2016. An exposure-based, ecology-driven framework for selection of indicator species for insecticide risk assessment. FOOD WEBS 9:46-54. doi:10.1016/j.fooweb.2016.0.004. Available: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352249615300240.

Interpretive Summary: When insecticidal products are formally evaluated for risks, indicator species must be selected for use in toxicity tests. However, as yet, no formal system has been developed to determine whether proposed indicator species are relevant to the ecology of the crop system where the product is proposed for use. Here, we propose a protocol that provides information on the ecology and trophic linkages of organisms within cropping systems, and demonstrate its implementation within the corn cropping system, which has been a major focus of recent insecticidal developments. We use molecular gut-content tests and network analysis to identify species that are likely to be exposed to plant-incorporated products, and that likely have important functional roles in interaction webs in the corn cropping system. The vast majority of arthropods was found in the soil. Only nine of the 382 types of corn-field insects and other small invertebrates met all three of the ecological criteria (high abundance, corn consumption, degree of connectedness within the network) for inclusion as indicator species, and only one of these, the insidious flower bug, has routinely been considered in risk assessment. Data collected in studies such as this one can be used to ensure that insecticide risk assessments are ecologically relevant. We advocate the use of large-scale field inventories of insects and other invertebrates, molecular gut-content tests, and ecological network analysis as regular components of the preparation and design phases of all future insecticide risk-assessment programs.

Technical Abstract: In the current “tiered” paradigm for evaluating risks of insecticidal products, one of the first decisions that must be made is the selection of indicator species to be used in toxicity assays. However, as yet, no formal system has been developed to determine whether proposed indicator species are relevant to the ecology of the crop system where the product will be released. Here, we propose a protocol that provides information on the ecology and trophic linkages of organisms within agro-ecosystems, and demonstrate its implementation within maize agro-ecosystems, which have been a major focus of recent insecticidal developments. We use molecular gut-content assays and network analysis to identify species that are likely to be exposed to plant-incorporated products, and that likely have important functional roles in interaction webs in the maize ecosystem. The vast majority of arthropod abundance was found in the soil (97% of specimens per m2 were found in the soil column). Only nine of the 382 morphotaxa met all three of the ecological criteria (high abundance, corn consumption, degree of connectedness within the network) for inclusion as indicator species, only one of which, Orius insidiosus (Say) (Hemiptera: Anthocoridae), has routinely been considered in risk assessment. Ecological data collected in studies such as this one can be used to ensure that insecticide risk assessments are ecologically relevant. We advocate the use of large-scale field bio-inventories, combined with molecular gut-content assays and ecological network analysis as regular components of the preparation and design phases of all future risk-assessment programs.