Freshwater communities are threatened worldwide, with pesticides being one of the main stressors for vulnerable invertebrates. Whereas the effects of pesticides on communities can be quantified by trait-based bioindicators such as SPEARpesticides, single species’ responses remain largely unknown.
We used the bioindicator SPEARpesticides to predict the toxic pressure from pesticides in 6942 macroinvertebrate samples from 4147 sites during the period 2004 to 2013, obtained by environmental authorities in Germany, and classified all samples according to their magnitude of pesticide pressure. Along this gradient of pesticide pressure, we quantified the occurrence of 139 macroinvertebrate species.
We identified 71 species characterized by decreasing occurrence with increasing pesticide pressure. These ‘decreasing species’, mainly insects, occurred at a frequency of 19.7% at sites with reference conditions and decreased to 1.7% at sites with the highest pesticide pressure. We further determined 55 ‘nonspecific species’ with no strong response as well as 13 ‘increasing species’, mainly Gastropoda, Oligochaeta and Diptera, which showed an increase of frequency from 1.8% at sites with reference conditions to 11.4% at sites with the highest pesticide pressure. Based on the change in frequency we determined the pesticide vulnerability of single species, expressed as Pesticide Associated Response (PARe). Furthermore, a trait analysis revealed that species’ occurrence may additionally depend on oxygen demand and, to a lesser extent on substrate preference, whereas no significant effect of feeding and respiration type could be found.
Our results provide the first extensive pesticide vulnerability ranking for single macroinvertebrate species based on empirical large-scale field data.