Review of the effects of organic pesticides on enchytraeids (Oligochaeta) in agroecosystems – laboratory and higher-tier tests

Enchytraeids (Oligochaeta, Annelida) are regularly found in agroecosystems of the temperate regions of the world. Although less known than their larger relatives, the earthworms, these saprophagous organisms play similar roles in agricultural soils influencing soil structure and organic matter dynamics and having a central place in soil food webs. Due to difficulties in distinguishing the species, their diversity is rarely studied and often underestimated. New genetic techniques reveal that even in soils with a strong anthropogenic influence, more than 10 species per site can be found. Given their close contact with the soil pore water, a high ingestion rate and a thin cuticle, they often react very sensitively to a broad range of pesticides. The present review provides a short overview of the diversity and abundance of enchytraeid communities in agroecosystems. Available data on enchytraeid sensitivity toward pesticides at different levels of biological organisation are evaluated, focusing on pesticides used in European agroecosystems. This includes non-standardised studies on the effects of pesticides on the sub-individual level, standard laboratory tests performed according to OECD and ISO guidelines and higher-tier studies (semi-field and field tests). The number of comparable test data is still limited, since tests with enchytraeids are not a regulatory requirement in the European Union. While focusing on the effects of pesticides, attention is also given to interactions with environmental stressors. Due to the diversity and functional importance of enchytraeids as well as their increasingly simplified use in (mostly standardised) tests at all levels of biological organisation, it is recommended to increase the use of enchytraeids in pesticide risk assessment.

For additional information, see the publication in Frontiers in Environmental Science:

Römbke, J., Schmelz, R.M., Pélosi, C. (2017). Effects of organic pesticides on enchytraeids (Oligochaeta) in agroecosystems: laboratory and higher-tier tests. Frontiers in Environmental Science 5:20.

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