Is the tier-1 effect assessment for herbicides protective for aquatic algae and vascular plant communities?

Wijngaarden, René P.A. van; Arts, Gertie H.P.


In the aquatic tier-1 effect assessment for plant protection products with an herbicidal mode of action in Europe, it is usually algae and/or vascular plants that determine the environmental risks. This tier includes tests with at least 2 algae and 1 macrophyte (Lemna). Although such tests are considered to be of a chronic nature (based on the duration of the test in relation to the life cycle of the organism), the measurement endpoints derived from the laboratory tests with plants (including algae) and used in the first-tier effect assessment for herbicides are acute effect concentrations affecting 50% of the test organisms (EC50 values) and not no-observed-effect concentrations (NOECs) or effect concentrations affecting 10% of the test organisms (EC10) values. Other European legislative frameworks (e.g., the Water Framework Directive) use EC10 values. The present study contributes to a validation of the tiered herbicide risk assessment approach by comparing the standard first-tier effect assessment with results of microcosm and mesocosm studies. We evaluated EC50 and EC10 values for standard test algae and macrophytes based on either the growth rate endpoint (ErC50) or the lowest available endpoint for growth rate or biomass/yield (Er/EyC50). These values were compared with the regulatory acceptable concentrations for the threshold option as derived from microcosm and mesocosm studies. For these studies, protection is maintained if growth rate is taken as the regulatory endpoint instead of the lowest value of either growth rate or biomass/yield in conjunction with the standard assessment factor of 10. Based on a limited data set of 14 herbicides, we did not identify a need to change the current practice. Environ Toxicol Chem 2018;37:175–183.