Department of System Ecotoxicology. Lena River Delta. Image Credit: NASA

Department of System-Ecotoxicology

How polluted are our surface waters with toxicants such as pesticides? What are impacts on the biodiversity and the functions of the ecosystem? Can we quantify combined effects of toxicants and environmental factors such as climate change? Which remediation measures are efficient?

The Department of System-Ecotoxicology identifies relevant effect mechanisms of toxicants. We apply this knowledge to uncover the effects of chemicals on indivuduals, populations and ecosystems. From this we develop methods to monitor toxicant effects (SPEAR) and approaches to predict their ecological impact.

Our knowledge and tools support scientists, public authorities and politicians to develop a sustainable management of toxic substances.

Pesticide input can be estimated using monitoring or GIS information about agricultural land use and the position of sewage treatment plants [1,3]. A more accurate modelling of pesticide input considers additional information on slope, soil characteristics, crops and weather conditions [2] as well as the presence of buffer strips [3]. The environmental impact of pesticide input, quantified by SPEARpesticide, may increase due to interactions with other stress factors [1] or decrease due to the presence of uncontaminated refuges like forest areas [3,4]. Relevant interactions are summarized in synthesis models and enable to give recommendations for landscape management.

Nationwide Monitoring of Small Streams

We manage a joint pilot study of scientist from the UFZ and the Koblenz-Landau University, the German Federal Environmental Agency and the federal states on a national monitoring of exposure and effects of plant protection products in small and medium streams.


Linking human disease and pesticide contamination in African streams

Pesticides may affect the infectivity of Schistosoma by supporting higher densities of intermediate hosts “freshwater snails”. The SENTINEL project identifies the potential effects of freshwater pollution by agrochemicals on the abundance of hosts for human-pathogenic nematodes that cause schistosomiasis. 



The landuseInformer is a synthesis model to estimate the ecological impact of agricultural land use. This tool allows to compare the efficiency of mitigation measures.



More information

Ecological effect mechanisms of toxicants
Identification of relevant mechanisms and development of models for the assessment of toxicant effects in aquatic ecosystems.

Indicator system SPEAR
Development of bioindicators to assess toxicant exposure and related effects on aquatic ecosystems.

Ecosystem analysis
Analysis and modelling of the landscape related pesticide risk.

Nationwide monitoring of small streams

Joint pilot study for a German monitoring of pesticide exposure in small streams.