Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Common Herbicide may be Unintentional Herpticide

Atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide and most common water contaminants on Earth, has come under scrutiny as a possible cause for global amphibian population decline. Hardest hit are stream salamanders. Although in the short term it seems harmless, longer lasting studies have found it to be problematic.
A few years ago at University of Kentucky, researchers Rohr, Sesterhenn, Palmer, and Sager tested the effects of different concentrations on larval salamanders. Of the three Atrazine levels tested, the two highest showed a significant increase in mortality rate during exposure. This would benefit the survivors, as it results in lower competition after metamorphosis. However, the effects of the contamination persist long after exposure. All the specimens subjected to the pesticide (even the lowest concentration group which had seemed fine in larval stage) showed a significantly lower survival rate post-exposure and post-metamorphosis when compared to a control group. The mechanism by which atrazine sabotages the salamanders is unknown, but it has been suggested to be an endocrine disruptor. Salamanders are not the only animals affected by this pollutant; frogs exposed to extremely low concentrations will still have developmental difficulties.
Studies like this can really make one question humanity's effects on the environment. Is pumping the ecosystem full of pesticides really worth it? Should our own selfish desire to get rid of a few weeds and insects really be allowed to have such an effect on the rest of the animals we share this Earth with?

Rhys Ursuliak (3)

1 comment:

  1. interesting article, but such sad news. Aren't there any other other less harmful chemicals that could be used as pesticides? We should know that if this chemical can harm a insects, it can possibly harm other life forms as well. I think it will be possible to discourage the use of these pesticides if we all started buying organic produce? We all know for a long while now, that pesticides have a negative effect on the environment, so we should indeed stop using them. And I agree, this shows how selfish we are.

    -Hermann Kam