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Aquat Toxicol. 2002 Mar;56(4):257-73.

Community-level disruptions among zooplankton of pond mesocosms treated with a neem (azadirachtin) insecticide.

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Canadian Forest Service, Great Lakes Forestry Centre, Sault Sainte Marie, Ont., Canada.


A natural, plant-derived insecticide, neem, is being evaluated as an alternative insect pest control product for forestry in Canada. As part of the process to investigate the environmental safety of neem-based insecticides, a mesocosm experiment was conducted to assess the effects of neem on natural zooplankton communities. Replicate (n=5), shallow (<1 m) forest pond enclosures were treated with Neemix 4.5, at concentrations of 0.035 (the expected environmental concentration), 0.18, 0.70, and 1.75 mg/l active ingredient, azadirachtin. Zooplankton communities were quantitatively sampled over a 4-month experimental period in treated and control enclosures, and water samples were collected to track azadirachtin concentrations. Concentrations in water declined linearly with estimated DT(50) values of 25-29 days. Trends in abundance over time among populations of cladocerans, copepods, and rotifers were found to differ significantly among treatments. At the two highest test concentrations, adverse effects were obvious with significant reductions in several cladoceran species, and near elimination of the three major copepod species present. More subtle effects at the two lowest test concentrations were determined by comparing the community structure of enclosures across treatment levels and over time through an analytical process based on the multivariate statistical software, PRIMER. Significant effects on community structure were detected at both of these lower concentrations, including the expected environmental concentration of 0.035 mg/l azadirachtin. Differential responses among species (some increases, some decreases) caused detectable disruptions in community structure among zooplankton of treated enclosures. Perturbations to zooplankton communities were sufficient to cause measurable differences in system-level metabolism (midday dissolved oxygen concentrations) at all but the lowest test concentration.

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