Avian assemblages are maintained after aerial applications of ULV fenitrothion for control of the Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera (Walker)) in arid and semiarid agroecosystems
Context: Risk assessments currently undertaken to approve pesticides for use against locusts in Australia are predominated by laboratory-generated data, often collected from non-endemic species. Very little information exists concerning the potential ecological effects of insecticides used for locust control. Aim: To determine the effect of aerial ultra-low volume (ULV) applications of the organophosphorous insecticide, fenitrothion (used for locust control), on avian assemblages in arid and semiarid agro-ecosystems. Methods: Avian abundance was surveyed in pesticide-exposed and unexposed locations during standard locust control operations, using fenitrothion, in western New South Wales and Queensland in the spring and summer of 1996, 1997 and 2000, using a transect-point method. Temporal changes in assemblages were analysed using multi-dimensional ordination (MDS) and permutational analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) with PRIMER (V7). Key results: Avian assemblages varied over time, independent of pesticide application, reflecting significant redistribution and mobility of birds across a highly disturbed agricultural landscape, irrespective of pesticide exposure. Additionally, pesticide exposure did not affect species abundance or diversity. Conclusions: There was no evidence that ultra-low volume (ULV) applications of fenitrothion, currently used in locust control, are impacting avian assemblages, despite previous research indicating that individual birds co-occurring with spray operations suffer suppressions in the enzymatic biomarker for OP exposure, plasma acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Implications: Although the risk to avian assemblages associated with the aerial application of locusticides is reduced by the small proportion of the landscape where locust control activities are focused, any change in spray application parameters would necessitate a re-evaluation of the risks associated with insecticide exposure.
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