Environmental contamination is supposed to be a reason for population declines in reptiles. Especially intensification and expansion of agriculture are leading to increased pesticide exposure risks for wildlife. In the European Union, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) have been established for the conservation of taxa listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive. In the SACs, agricultural land use is legal. Therefore, we conducted a risk evaluation of pesticide exposure for Annex II reptiles by calculating proportions of land use with regular pesticide applications within SACs. Using three evaluation factors (occurrence probability, physiology, life-history aspects), a species-specific risk index was created. Nearly half of the species at above-average risk by pesticide use are globally threatened with extinction (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species). About 30% of their SACs are agriculturally used and one priority subspecies of the Habitats Directive is at highest risk (Vipera ursinii rakosiensis). Also, all evaluated fresh-water and land-dwelling turtle species are at high risk. National variation in agricultural land use in the SACs was observed. Species at above-average risk are mainly distributed in the Mediterranean and Pannonian/Continental biogeographical regions of Europe. Conservation status according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as well as national differences among the member states argue for the inclusion of pesticide risk assessments in site-specific management plans for SACs to avoid regional loss of reptilian biodiversity.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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