Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Pesticides -- easier detection of pollution and impact in rivers

The long-term effects of pesticides on living organisms in rivers and on water quality can now be assessed more easily. Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have developed a tool that can estimate the harmful effect of pesticides, such as those flushed into rivers and streams from agricultural land, within minutes.

"It used to be very difficult to detect which chronic effects occur," explains Dr Matthias Liess, head of the UFZ's System Ecotoxicology Department. In their new approach, the Helmholtz researchers exploit the fact that pesticides cause characteristic changes to the composition of the life community that is affected.

"You just need to find out which living creatures, e.g. insects and crabs, are found at a certain point along the river and in what numbers," Liess explains. The authorities responsible for water management usually have such data available, he adds. Liess and his colleagues have now set up a Web application where this data can be entered and evaluated to show immediately how high the level of pollution in the rivers under investigation actually is. Users download an Excel table from the website and then enter the numbers of each kind of organism found at each sampling site. Once the table is complete it is fed into the 'SPEAR calculator' and the user enters the region in which the samples were taken. The calculator immediately shows what the water quality in the area in question is like. Regional data is currently available for Germany, France, Finland and Western Siberia, but the system has also been tested in the UK and in Australia. There is no charge for using the service.

Liess believes the authorities can use the calculation results to take suitable steps to reduce pesticide pollution of rivers. "But our tool can do more than just identify problem areas," the Helmholtz scientist stresses. It also indicates where unpolluted stretches of river are compensating for the effect of the pollution. This is extremely important because it can show when conservation methods have been successful. Another advantage of the new tool is that in many cases, complex, expensive chemical analyses will no longer be necessary.

Further information:
Dr. Matthias Liess
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Phone: +49-341-235-1578
Tilo Arnhold (UFZ press officer)
Phone: +49-341-235-1269
Beketov M.A., Foit K., Schäfer R.B., Schriever C.A., Sacchi A., Capri E., Biggs J., Wells C., Liess, M. (2009): SPEAR indicates pesticide effects in streams – comparative use of species- and family-level biomonitoring data.
Environmental Pollution 157(6), June 2009, 1841-1848
The study was supported by the Environment Agency of England and Wales and by the European Union.


At the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) scientists research the causes and consequences of far-reaching environmental changes. They study water resources, biological diversity, the consequences of climate change and adaptation possibilities, environmental and biotechnologies, bio energy, the behaviour of chemicals in the environment and their effect on health, as well as modelling and social science issues. Their guiding research principle is supporting the sustainable use of natural resources and helping to secure these basic requirements of life over the long term under the influence of global change. The UFZ employs 900 people at its sites in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is funded by the German government and by the states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.

The Helmholtz Association helps solve major, pressing challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research areas: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Transport and Space. With 28,000 employees in 15 research centres and an annual budget of around EUR 2.4 billion, the Helmholtz Association is Germany's largest scientific organisation. Its work follows in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).

Tilo Arnhold | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First-time reconstruction of infectious bat influenza viruses

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Amazon rain helps make more rain

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>