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The rise of glyphosate and new opportunities for biosentinel early‐warning studies

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Glyphosate has become the most commonly used herbicide worldwide and is reputedly environmentally benign, nontoxic, and safe for use near wildlife and humans. However, studies indicate its toxicity is underestimated and its persistence in the environment is greater than once thought. Its actions as a neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor indicate its potential to act in similar ways to persistent organic pollutants such as the organochlorines dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dioxin. Exposure to glyphosate and glyphosate‐based herbicides for both wildlife and people is likely to be chronic and at sublethal levels, with multiple and ongoing exposure events occurring in urban and agricultural landscapes. Despite this, there has been little research on the impact of glyphosate on wildlife populations, and existing studies appear in the agricultural, toxicology, and water‐chemistry literature that may have limited visibility among wildlife biologists. These studies clearly demonstrate a link between chronic exposure and neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, cell damage, and immune suppression. There is a strong case for the recognition of glyphosate as an emerging organic contaminant and substantial potential exists for collaborative research among ecologists, toxicologists, and chemists to quantify the impact of glyphosate on wildlife and to evaluate the role of biosentinel species in a preemptive move to mitigate downstream impacts on people. There is scope to develop a decision framework to aid the choice of species to biomonitor and analysis methods based on the target contaminant, spatial and temporal extent of contamination, and perceived risk. Birds in particular offer considerable potential in this role because they span agricultural and urban environments, coastal, inland, and wetland ecosystems where glyphosate residues are known to be present.
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Keywords: La Primavera Silenciosa; POP; Silent Spring; ave; bioindicador; bioindicator; bird; contaminante emergente; contaminantes orgánicos persistentes; emerging pollutant; herbicida; herbicide; organofosfato; organophosphate; persistent organic pollutants

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2017

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