Agricultural threats to aquatic insects and farmland birds in Prairie Canada
We are studying the environmental impact of agricultural practices and insecticide use in the Canadian Prairies. One group of insecticides, the Neonicotinoids - are an economically important group of chemicals - but with chemical properties that potentially threaten Canada's freshwater resources through reduced aquatic insect production with consequences for birds and wildlife that are dependent on insects for food.
AGRICULTURAL IMPACTS ON AERIAL INSECTIVORES AND FARMLAND BIRDS
Aerial insectivores, a diverse guild of birds that consume flying insects on the wing, are exhibiting large scale declines in their breeding ranges of North America. In addition, many granivorous farmland (grassland) birds are also showing steep losses. Although complex factors have been implicated, one principal hypothesis is that declines are greatest where there is more intensive agriculture. Landscape simplification, wetland loss and heavy reliance on pesticides and other agrochemicals has been ongoing with large scale shifts in agricultural land use practices can indirectly lead to reductions in insect prey, habitat suitability and toxicity to birds that are directly exposed to the pesticides. Collectively, these changes are believed to have exerted negative effects on insects, insect consumers and farmland bird species over vast geographies. This research aims to evaluate the processes, chemicals, locations and species that are most affected to help reverse declines.
NEONICOTINOIDS AND OTHER AGROCHEMICALS IN PRAIRIE WETLANDS
Shifts in agriculture toward large-scale production, mechanization and mono-cropping have seen exponential growth in chemical inputs designed for improved crop yields. Current agricultural practices are highly dependent on pesticide use. Neonicotinoids are valued for their versatility in application, most are used as seed treatments on major Prairie crops such as canola (oilseed rape). In Canada’s Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), this is problematic as prime agricultural land is directly adjacent to ecologically important freshwater wetlands. We currently have a comprehensive set projects investigating potential impacts of neonicotinoids and other agrochemicals on Prairie wetland ecosystems using lab, semi-field (limnocorral), and field studies.