Is bifenthrin killing our urban aquatic ecosystems?

By Katherine Jeppe, Claudette Kellar, Stephen Marshall, Valentina Colombo, Georgia Sinclair, and Vincent Pettigrove

Bifenthrin was the most frequently detected pesticide and the most important predictor of Austrochiltonia spp. responses.

Bifenthrin Causes Toxicity in Urban Stormwater Wetlands: Field and Laboratory Assessment Using Austrochiltonia (Amphipoda)

This article was published online in Environmental Science and Technology on May 11th 2017. For more information please contact Vincent Pettigrove


Stormwater wetlands are engineered to accumulate sediment and pollutants from stormwater and provide environmental value to urban environments. Therefore, contaminated sediment risks causing toxicity to aquatic fauna. This research identifies contaminants of concern in urban wetland sediments by assessing sediment toxicity using the amphipod Austrochiltonia subtenuis. Sediments from 98 wetlands were analyzed for contaminants, and laboratory bioassays were performed with A. subtenuis. Wild Austrochiltonia spp. were also collected from wetlands to assess field populations. Random forest modeling was used to identify the most important variables predicting survival, growth, and field absence of Austrochiltonia spp. Bifenthrin was the most frequently detected pesticide and also the most important predictor of Austrochiltonia spp. responses. Copper, permethrin, chromium, triclosan, and lead were also important. The median lethal effect concentration (LC50) of bifenthrin to laboratory-based A. subtenuis (1.09 (±0.08) μg/gOC) exposed to wetland sediments was supported by a bifenthrin-spiked sediment experiment, indicating A. subtenuis is a suitable test species. Furthermore, Austrochiltonia spp. were absent from all sites that exceeded the calculated bifenthrin LC50, demonstrating the impact of this contaminant on wild populations. This research demonstrates the sensitivity of Austrochiltonia spp. to urban sediment contamination and identifies bifenthrin as a contaminant of concern in urban wetlands.

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