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A TIERED APPROACH TO ASSESSING THE ECOTOXICOLOGY OF FUNGICIDES ON AQUATIC COMMUNITIES
Over the past two decades, emerging fungal pathogens have been reported in numerous groups ranging from mammals to key crop species across the globe. To combat the rise of these fungal pathogens in industrial agriculture, fungicides have been developed and subsequently applied en masse. Despite their growing usage, research examining the effects of these anthropogenic contaminants on natural systems is severely limited compared to other major classes of pesticides. Of particular concern are their impacts on aquatic systems, which can be especially at risk due to their proximity to agriculture. Herein I used a tiered approach to assess the impacts of this class of pesticides on aquatic ecosystems using amphibians as model system. In the first chapter, I assessed the acute toxicity of two widely applied fungicides, pyraclostrobin and chlorothalonil, to six different species of amphibians commonly found in the Midwest. My results showed that these fungicides are very acutely toxic to several species of amphibians at levels within the expected environmental concentration (EEC). In the second chapter, I examined the impacts of long-term low-dose exposure of pyraclostrobin on the growth, development, and activity levels of three species of amphibians. Despite the acute toxicity of pyraclostrobin, sublethal effects of the fungicide were rather limited with only minor effect on growth and activity. In the third chapter, I investigated the effects of fungicide exposure on host-parasite interactions using trematodes and American Bullfrog tadpoles. I found that in all treatments pyraclostrobin increased parasite loads from ~3 to 8 times compared to control tadpoles. Additionally, parasite loads were approximately 2 times higher in tadpoles with the continued fungicide exposures compared to those tadpoles that were moved to fresh water following initial fungicide exposure. Finally, my fourth chapter investigated the impact of pyraclostrobin and chlorothalonil application regime on community-level interactions under semi-natural conditions. While chlorothalonil had limited effects on the community, I found that pyraclostrobin was acutely toxic to Gray Treefrogs at environmentally relevant concentrations and these effects were stronger with more frequent applications. Collectively, my research has demonstrated that fungicides can be acutely toxic to amphibians at EECs under laboratory and semi-natural conditions. Additionally, they have the potential to alter disease dynamics by increasing infection risk. Given our increasing usage of fungicides to control emerging fungal pathogens, a greater emphasis on understanding the environmental implications of this management strategy is needed to inform ecological risk assessments.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Forestry and Natural Resources
- West Lafayette