Brood size is reduced by half in birds feeding on flutriafol-treated seeds below the recommended application rate

Despite the efforts of the European Commission to implement measures that offset the detrimental effects of agricultural intensification, farmland bird populations continue to decline. Pesticide use has been pointed out as a major cause of decline, with growing concern about those agro-chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors. We report here on the effects of flutriafol, a ubiquitous systemic fungicide used for cereal seed treatment, on the physiology and reproduction of a declining gamebird. Captive red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa; n=11-13 pairs per treatment) were fed wheat treated with 0%, 20% or 100% of the flutriafol application rate during 25 days in late winter. We studied treatment effects on the reproductive performance, carotenoid-based coloration and cellular immune responsiveness of adult partridges, and their relationship with changes in oxidative stress biomarkers and plasma biochemistry. We also studied the effect of parental exposure on egg antioxidant content and on the survival, growth and cellular immune response of offspring. Exposed partridges experienced physiological effects (reduced levels of cholesterol and triglycerides), phenotypical effects (a reduction in the carotenoid-based pigmentation of their eye rings), and most importantly, severe adverse effects on reproduction: a reduced clutch size and fertile egg ratio, and an overall offspring production reduced by more than 50%. No effects on body condition or cellular immune response of either exposed adult or their surviving offspring were observed. These results, together with previous data on field exposure in wild partridges, demonstrate that seed treatment with flutriafol represents a risk for granivorous birds; they also highlight a need to improve the current regulation system used for foreseeing and preventing negative impacts of Plant Protection Products on wildlife.


Lopez-Antia, A., Ortiz-Santaliestra, M.E., Mougeot, F., Camarero, P.R., Mateo, R. 2018. Brood size is reduced by half in birds feeding on flutriafol-treated seeds below the recommended application rate. Environmental Pollution 243 (Part A): 418-426.
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