Evaluation of side-effects of glyphosate mediated control of giant reed (Arundo donax) on the structure and function of a nearby Mediterranean river ecosystem

Environ Res. 2010 Aug;110(6):556-64. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2010.05.004. Epub 2010 Jun 11.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of the application of the herbicide Herbolex (Aragonesas Agro, S.A., Madrid, Spain) to control giant reed (Arundo donax), which has glyphosate as active ingredient, on the structure and function of a nearby river ecosystem. Specifically, we assessed glyphosate environmental fate in the surrounding water and its effects on transplanted Daphnia magna, field collected caddisfly (Hydropsyche exocellata) and on benthic macroinvertebrate structure assemblages. Investigations were conducted in the industrialized and urbanized Mediterranean river Llobregat (NE Spain) before and after a terrestrial spray of glyphosate. Four locations were selected to include an upstream site and three affected ones. Measured glyphosate levels in river water following herbicide application were quite high (20-60 microg/l) with peak values of 137 microg/l after three days. After 12 days of its application, leaching of glyphosate from sprayed riverbanks was quite high in pore water (20-85 microg/l) but not in the river. Closely linked with the measured poor habitat and water physico-chemical conditions, macroinvertebrate communities were dominated by taxa tolerant to pollution and herbicide application did not affect the abundance or number of taxa in any location. Nevertheless, significant specific toxic effects on transplanted D. magna and field collected H. exocellata were observed. Effects included D. magna feeding inhibition and oxidative stress related responses such as increased antioxidant enzyme activities related with the metabolism of glutathione and increased levels of lipid peroxidation. These results emphasize the importance of combined chemical, ecological and specific biological responses to identify ecological effects of pesticides in the field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Daphnia / drug effects*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / analysis
  • Glycine / toxicity
  • Herbicides / toxicity*
  • Insecta / drug effects*
  • Poaceae / drug effects
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Spain
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Herbicides
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • glyphosate
  • Glycine