New research presented at the SEB Centenary Conference 2023 in Edinburgh reveals that wild birds living in vineyards are highly vulnerable to contamination by triazole fungicides, more so than in other agricultural landscapes. The study, conducted by Dr. Frédéric Angelier and his team from the French National Center for Scientific Research, found that exposure to field-realistic levels of these fungicides disrupts bird hormones and metabolism, which can have detrimental effects on their reproduction and survival.
The research highlights the significant contamination of birds by triazoles in vineyards compared to other crops. This underscores the increased risk that contaminants pose to birds in these specific agroecosystems. Triazoles, commonly used fungicides, are employed in agriculture to combat fungal pests by interfering with their cell membranes.
While previous studies have examined the impact of various agricultural industries on wildlife declines, the role of vineyards has largely been overlooked. However, vineyards occupy a substantial portion of land in certain European countries and are associated with extensive fungicide use, up to 5-7 times more than other crops. Therefore, assessing the effects of fungicides on wild birds in vineyards is highly relevant.
Dr. Angelier and his team employed a combination of field experiments to measure actual fungicide levels and controlled laboratory experiments to evaluate the impact of these levels on bird health. Unlike many laboratory investigations, which use higher concentrations of pesticides to elicit stronger reactions, the researchers measured real-world fungicide contamination in birds inhabiting vineyards as well as other ecosystems like forests, cities, and crop fields.
Subsequently, they accurately replicated the fungicide concentrations found in vineyards in laboratory conditions to examine the sub-lethal effects on bird physiology and health. This approach allowed the researchers to gain insights into how wild birds are genuinely affected by pesticides in realistic settings. The study’s findings indicate that the impacts on reproduction and survival could lead to a loss of biodiversity or essential ecological services provided by birds, such as pest control.
Overall, this research underscores the need to consider the detrimental effects of triazole fungicides on bird populations in vineyards and emphasizes the importance of developing sustainable agricultural practices to mitigate these risks and preserve biodiversity.
Source: Society for Experimental Biology