Ecotoxicology

Group Facilitators: Michelle Boone & Rick Relyea

ASG Secretariat Lead Contact: Phil Bishop (pbishop[at]amphibians.org)

Current Priority Actions

The following are immediate priorities identified by the Ecotoxicology Working Group. These actions are expected to change as progress is made in addressing the issues.

Major Constraints To Effective ConservationMid-term Priorities (1–5 years)Short-term Targets (6–12 months)
SCIENCE
Movement of pesticides/contaminants into amphibian habitatsi. Identify key factors that may interact with contaminant exposure to increase susceptibility to declines, e. g. disease

ii. Identify ways to mitigate pesticide exposure (i.e. reduce runoff) through terrestrial buffers or other means
i. Rank species according to threat level in The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and prioritize by habitats

ii. Classify the scope of impact (individual, population, community, or landscape level)
Insufficient information on ecotoxicological links between amphibian and human health i. Develop funds to promote future toxicological studies on amphibians
in the field

ii. Develop regionally-focused social marketing campaigns against the use of pesticides with positive ideas and solutions for people
i. Identify potential donors and funding mechanisms, reach out to prospective donors

ii. Encourage research institutions to focus on increasing capacity in toxicological studies on amphibians, use of more relevant methods to field situations, e g. mesocosms

iii. Explore the opportunities to directly link human welfare with amphibian welfare
Insufficient work on translational research on ecotoxicology and amphibian conservationIncrease dialogue between amphibian conservation scientists, practitioners and environmental chemists and ecotoxicologists on pollution-related threats to ensure mitigation efforts are guided by the best science, and that science meets the needs of conservation practiceRaise awareness of the lack of conservation evidence on pollution-related threat mitigation and encourage publication of these studies through www.conservationevidence.com and other journals
Geographic and species biases in studiesi. Raise awareness of geographical and taxonomic gaps

ii. Identify chemicals that are banned in some countries but not others, and rationale for the chemicals being banned in certain regions (and use that for lobbying)
i. Review and collate information on both geographical and taxonomic gaps as well as assess the vulnerabilities related to life history and effects of contaminants across different life stages

ii. Identify areas/species where there is very little knowledge on the effects of pollution

iii. Chemicals are usually tested on Xenopus as a model organism, encourage identification and use of ecologically relevant species for testing
An overwhelming number of chemicals in the environment, making targeted studies of all potentially damaging chemicals and their interactions challengingi. Promote and facilitate the study of representative contaminants by “chemical class” to evaluate risks

ii. Support the evaluation of potential for key mixtures or interactions with other factors like disease or habitat change
i. Target persistent pesticides (e.g., atrazine or DDT) and contaminants (e.g., Hg)

ii. Target pesticides/contaminants that are known to be endocrine disruptors
Lack of use of native amphibians in standard ecotoxicological testingPromote and lobby for the testing of amphibians as part of routine toxicological screening—currently fish and birds are the surrogate for aquatic and terrestrial amphibians, respectivelyDetermine adequate models (e.g., northern leopard frogs in US) and standards for standard toxicity tests
Lack of information on key endpoints for studiesPromote and support studies that seek to determine population-level significance of cellular and reproductive changes (for instance, do reductions in fertility have population-level impacts)Evaluate impacts on breeding behavior, reproductive development and function, and fecundity; biomarkers (e.g., changes in thyroid responsive genes); impacts on survival
Life cycle studies largely missingPromote and support studies of exposure across the life cycle of amphibians to improve our ability to predict population-level consequences
CONSERVATION
Limited alternatives on the use of pesticides and limited interaction with communities that use these alternativesi. Develop fund to allow for research on use of alternative pesticides

ii. Establish long-term partnerships with organic agriculture organizations
i. Identify and contact potential donors to the fund

ii. Identify and contact representatives of the organic agriculture movement to explore potential partnerships
Citizen science initiatives to educate young people on the issues surrounding pollutants and amphibiansi. Integration into school curricula

ii. Develop a database of environmental educators
i. Develop materials in several languages to disseminate to students (make available to educators)

ii. Identify and contact environmental educators who can act as focal points for the initiatives
Lack of communication and coordination between law enforcement and the research on ecotoxicologyi. Establish communication channels between both communities

ii. Work with authorities to change attitudes and eventually legislation
i. Identify and contact proactive and communicative members who would be willing to act as focal points/moderators for these communities, create an online network and invite members of both communities to join

ii. Identify relevant authorities in amphibian rich countries

iii. Develop clear and informative documentation in various languages (perhaps IUCN’s three official languages to begin with) to help explain the current situation on some of the effects of pesticides
Insufficient independent funding mechanisms for routine toxicity testing in the lab or in more natural environmentsEstablish funding for toxicological studies on key categories of contaminants or key contaminants of interest to generate the needed data
POLICY
Conflict of interest (COI) with industry-funded research being used in regulatory assessmenti. Promote and lobby for the creation of a third-party funding agency that can separate funding from industry to conduct tests from the research analysis and interpretation

ii. Lobby for changes in US legislation to mitigate issues of financial COI in research and to use more of the available data to make evidence-based decisions
Identify and contact receptive members of governmental agencies to lobby for change in approach at key regulatory agencies
Lack of knowledge on harmful pesticides Develop an open database compiling evidence-based information on all pesticides that affect amphibiansEnlist volunteers to identify and review commonly used pesticides that are harmful to amphibians
Wetland protectionPromote and support the protection and use of terrestrial buffers for ephemeral and small wetlands through legislation (as many streams and rivers have)i. Identify amphibian-occupied aquatic habitats that are most vulnerable to pesticide runoff

ii. Establish vegetative buffer zones around these aquatic habitats in areas of concern to filter out pesticide runoff
SITE LEVEL STAKEHOLDERS
Insufficient information on the effects of pollutants on human welfare (for local stakeholders, e.g. farmers) Social marketing of the issue, establish links with grassroots organizationsIdentify target locations and develop outreach material (in appropriate language) on the effects of locally applied pollutants on amphibian and human health

ACAP related chapters

Chapter 6. Evaluating the Role of Environmental Contamination in Amphibian Population Declines (M. D. Boone, D. Cowman, C. Davidson, T. Hayes, W. Hopkins, R. Relyea, L. Schiesari, R. Semlitsch).

Read the whole ACAP here.