An ecotoxicological study of the impact of agricultural practices on the Eurasian tree sparrow
Project responsable Fabrice Helfenstein
Team member Ségolène Humann Guilleminot
Lukasz Binkowski
Abstract Agricultural activities have shaped the habitats of many species of animals, especially birds. Modern agriculture includes two opposite ways: conventional, intensive farming and organic, extensive farming. The first form is characterized by the wide use of pesticides and fertilizers containing metals. These substances affect the trophic chain, and can even cause local extinction of populations due to lack of food (lower biomass of insects) , indirect toxicity and/or induction of oxidative stress, which ultimately may negatively affect reproduction and survival.
The aim of this project is to give an ecotoxicological point-of-view to agricultural practices, to improve our understanding of the dynamics of bird populations and vulnerability. More specifically, in this project we want to compare the levels of neonicotinoids (Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam) and metals (mercury, lead, cadmium, iron, zinc, copper) in the blood and faeces of Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus living in areas contrasted by their agricultural practices, namely organic vs. intensive farming in Switzerland. In addition to the assessment of blood and faecal levels of xenobiotics, we also will also assess the oxidative balance of birds living in the two types of area, in order to investigate the potential relationship between bird oxidative status (oxidized and reduced glutathione, superoxide dismutase enzyme, oxidative damage to DNA), levels of xenobiotics in the blood and agricultural practices.
We believe that the results of such study can be used to assess the impact of modern agriculture on bird populations and to evaluate whether organic farming benefits wild ecosystems.
Keywords Heavy metals; male fertility; oxidative stress; neonicotinoids; insecticides; agricultural practices
Type of project Fundamental research project
Research area Ecotoxicology; evolutionary ecophysiology
Method of financing Sciex-NMS Scientific Exchange Programme
Status Completed
Start of project 1-5-2015
End of project 31-10-2015
Overall budget CHf 51'300.-
Contact Fabrice Helfenstein