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Widespread Use and Frequent Detection of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Wetlands of Canada's Prairie Pothole Region

posted on 26.03.2014, 03:28 by Anson R. Main, John V. Headley, Kerry M. Peru, Nicole L. Michel, Allan J. Cessna, Christy A. Morrissey

Neonicotinoids currently dominate the insecticide market as seed treatments on Canada's major Prairie crops (e.g., canola). The potential impact to ecologically significant wetlands in this dominantly agro-environment has largely been overlooked while the distribution of use, incidence and level of contamination remains unreported. We modelled the spatial distribution of neonicotinoid use across the three Prairie Provinces in combination with temporal assessments of water and sediment concentrations in wetlands to measure four active ingredients (clothianidin, thiamethoxam, imidacloprid and acetamiprid). From 2009 to 2012, neonicotinoid use was increasing; by 2012, applications covered an estimated ∼11 million hectares (44% of Prairie cropland) with >216,000 kg of active ingredients. Thiamethoxam, followed by clothianidin, were the dominant seed treatments by mass and area. Areas of high neonicotinoid use were identified as high density canola or soybean production. Water sampled four times from 136 wetlands (spring, summer, fall 2012 and spring 2013) across four rural municipalities in Saskatchewan similarly revealed clothianidin and thiamethoxam in the majority of samples. In spring 2012 prior to seeding, 36% of wetlands contained at least one neonicotinoid. Detections increased to 62% in summer 2012, declined to 16% in fall, and increased to 91% the following spring 2013 after ice-off. Peak concentrations were recorded during summer 2012 for both thiamethoxam (range: