Tang, Fiona H. M., Lenzen, Manfred, McBratney, Alexander, & Maggi, Federico; “Risk of pesticide pollution at the global scale;” Nature Geoscience, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41561-021-00712-5.
Pesticides are widely used to protect food production and meet global food demand but are also ubiquitous environmental pollutants, causing adverse effects on water quality, biodiversity and human health. Here we use a global database of pesticide applications and a spatially explicit environmental model to estimate the world geography of environmental pollution risk caused by 92 active ingredients in 168 countries. We considered a region to be at risk of pollution if pesticide residues in the environment exceeded the no-effect concentrations, and to be at high risk if residues exceeded this by three orders of magnitude. We find that 64% of global agricultural land (approximately 24.5 million km2) is at risk of pesticide pollution by more than one active ingredient, and 31% is at high risk. Among the high-risk areas, about 34% are in high-biodiversity regions, 5% in water-scarce areas and 19% in low- and lower-middle-income nations. We identify watersheds in South Africa, China, India, Australia and Argentina as high-concern regions because they have high pesticide pollution risk, bear high biodiversity and suffer from water scarcity. Our study expands earlier pesticide risk assessments as it accounts for multiple active ingredients and integrates risks in different environmental compartments at a global scale. FULL TEXT