This study addresses the potential risks to the aquatic ecosystem posed by pesticides currently used in The Netherlands. The study used a novel method to predict aquatic exposure to pesticides based on a geographic information system (GIS) map of agricultural land use, comprising 51 crops used in open-canopy areas. Through the application of species-sensitivity distributions for aquatic organisms, in combination with rules for mixture-toxicity calculation, the modeled exposure results were transformed to risk estimates for aquatic species. The majority of the predicted risks were caused by pesticides applied to potato cropland, and approximately 95% of the predicted risk was caused by only 7 of the 261 pesticides currently used in The Netherlands. For risk verification, local toxic-risk estimates were compared with observed species composition in field ditches. The field verification study was not able to draw firm conclusions regarding the predicted impact of pesticide use on overall biodiversity. A toxicity-related shift from sensitive to more tolerant or opportunistic species could be observed for a few species.
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