Hidden Pesticide Threats in Protected Landscape Areas
The extensive application of plant protection products on cultivated soils often results in environmental contamination, even when following good agricultural practices. Regrettably, despite stringent conservation efforts, pesticides continue to be a concern within protected areas, which are generally considered to be free of pollution.
Protected Landscape Areas (PLAs)
PLAs are invaluable for their pivotal role in protecting biodiversity and maintaining the integrity of natural ecosystems. These designated areas serve as vital sanctuaries for countless plant and animal species, providing a haven where they can thrive and coexist as part of a balanced ecosystem. Nonetheless, the very essence of PLAs, their pristine environments, can be threatened by the unintended consequences of modern agricultural practices, with the use of pesticides standing out as a significant concern.
PLAs are often located adjacent to agricultural lands. Pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, are extensively used in agriculture to control pests and maximize crop yields. These chemical agents, crucial for safeguarding crop yields and food security, pose a dual-edged sword. Rainfall, runoff, and leaching can transport pesticides from fields into adjacent PLAs. As a result, pesticide residues can be detected in water bodies within these protected areas.
When misapplied or excessively used, these chemical agents can severely compromise the quality of both surface and groundwater resources. Surface waters, such as rivers and streams, can become contaminated as pesticide residues are washed away from fields during rainfall or irrigation, infiltrating nearby water bodies. Groundwater, the primary source of drinking water for many communities, is susceptible to pesticide leaching through the soil, potentially resulting in harmful chemical concentrations that exceed safety limits.
Long-term impact of pesticide exposure should not be neglected as well. Pesticide residues can persist in the environment for extended time periods, posing a continuous threat to the health of PLAs and their inhabitants. Last but not least it should be noted that pests can develop the resistance to pesticides, leading to a cycle of increasing pesticide use, which exacerbates the aforementioned issues.
Plant protection products used in particular in agriculture, undergo a pre-marketing check thorough evaluation based on the Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council to minimize negative effects on the environment and non-target organisms. An important part of this evaluation is the exclusion of significant effects on relevant organisms that could be affected by the use of the products.