Pervasive exposure of wild small mammals to legacy and currently used pesticide mixtures in arable landscapes

Sci Rep. 2022 Sep 23;12(1):15904. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-19959-y.


Knowledge gaps regarding the potential role of pesticides in the loss of agricultural biodiversity worldwide and mixture-related issues hamper proper risk assessment of unintentional impacts of pesticides, rendering essential the monitoring of wildlife exposure to these compounds. Free-ranging mammal exposure to legacy (Banned and Restricted: BRPs) and currently used (CUPs) pesticides was investigated, testing the hypotheses of: (1) a background bioaccumulation for BRPs whereas a "hot-spot" pattern for CUPs, (2) different contamination profiles between carnivores and granivores/omnivores, and (3) the role of non-treated areas as refuges towards exposure to CUPs. Apodemus mice (omnivore) and Crocidura shrews (insectivore) were sampled over two French agricultural landscapes (n = 93). The concentrations of 140 parent chemicals and metabolites were screened in hair samples. A total of 112 compounds were detected, showing small mammal exposure to fungicides, herbicides and insecticides with 32 to 65 residues detected per individual (13-26 BRPs and 18-41 CUPs). Detection frequencies exceeded 75% of individuals for 13 BRPs and 25 CUPs. Concentrations above 10 ng/g were quantified for 7 BRPs and 29 CUPs (in 46% and 72% of individuals, respectively), and above 100 ng/g for 10 CUPs (in 22% of individuals). Contamination (number of compounds or concentrations) was overall higher in shrews than rodents and higher in animals captured in hedgerows and cereal crops than in grasslands, but did not differ significantly between conventional and organic farming. A general, ubiquitous contamination by legacy and current pesticides was shown, raising issues about exposure pathways and impacts on ecosystems. We propose a concept referred to as "biowidening", depicting an increase of compound diversity at higher trophic levels. This work suggests that wildlife exposure to pesticide mixtures is a rule rather than an exception, highlighting the need for consideration of the exposome concept and questioning appropriateness of current risk assessment and mitigation processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fungicides, Industrial* / analysis
  • Herbicides*
  • Insecticides* / analysis
  • Mice
  • Pesticides* / chemistry
  • Shrews


  • Fungicides, Industrial
  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides
  • Pesticides