Thursday August 10, 2023


Pesticides are a leading source of chemical hazards in aquatic environments. A study published in PLOS Water by Nicol Parker and Arturo A Keller at University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues introduces a new tool to help evaluate toxicity at high resolution and suggests that targeting a small number of pesticides in a few watersheds could significantly reduce aquatic toxicity in California’s agricultural centers.

Reducing pesticide toxicity in watersheds is limited by the ability to quantify pesticide use, toxicity, and impacts over spatial and temporal scales. In order to provide a framework for targeting pesticide reductions, the authors developed the Environmental Release Tool (ERT) using watershed data from the US Geological Survey. ERT is a web and desktop application that summarizes pesticide applications and toxicity by watershed.

They used ERT to analyze pesticide use across 140 California watersheds receiving agricultural pesticide applications. The ERT was able to quantify the toxicity released to aquatic taxa across these watershed areas, representing approximately 20% of the pesticide mass in the United States and covering hundreds of commodities.

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