Pesticides drive differential leaf litter decomposition and mosquito colonisation dynamics in lentic conditions

Thendo Mutshekwa, Lutendo Mugwedi, Ryan J. Wasserman, Ross N. Cuthbert, Farai Dondofema, Tatenda Dalu

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Global contamination of freshwater ecosystems by chemical compounds, such as pesticides, may exert high pressure on biologically-driven organic matter decomposition. These pollutants may also impair the quality of organic substrates for colonising invertebrates and reduce primary productivity by decreasing the abundance of phytoplankton. In southern Africa, increasing pesticide usage associated with macadamia plantations, in particular, presents a growing risk to freshwater ecosystems. Here, we examined macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia) leaf litter decomposition following exposure to three pesticides (i.e., Karate Zeon 10 CS (lambda-cyhalothrin), Mulan 20 AS (acetamiprid), Pyrinex 250 CS (chlorpyrifos)) used commonly in macadamia plantations, via an ex-situ microcosm approach. We examined mosquito colonisation of these microcosms as semi-aquatic macroinvertebrates which form a significant component of aquatic communities within standing waters. Macadamia leaf litter tended to decompose faster when exposed to Karate and Pyrinex pesticide treatments. Additionally, chlorophyll-a, conductivity, total dissolved solids, and pH differed among pesticide treatments and controls, with pesticides (Karate Zeon and Mulan) tending to reduce chlorophyll-a concentrations. Overall, pesticide treatments promoted mosquito (i.e., Culex spp.) and pupae abundances. In terms of dominant aquatic mosquito group abundances (i.e., Anopheles spp., Culex spp.), the effect of pesticides differed significantly among pesticide types, with Pyrinex and Mulan treatments having higher mosquito abundances in comparison to Karate Zeon and pesticide-free treatments. These findings collectively demonstrate that these pesticides used in the macadamia plantation may exert pressure on adjacent freshwater communities by shaping leaf-litter decomposition, semi-aquatic macroinvertebrate colonisation dynamics, and chlorophyll-a.
Original languageEnglish
Article number156320
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date29 May 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 29 May 2022


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