Ecological effects of fungicides in freshwater ecosystems (11.03.2014)

Fungicides is a pesticide group that has received very little scientific and political attention in spite of the fact that it is the most frequently applied pesticide group in the EU. Recent studies show that fungicides are detected in more than 90% of water samples across and even outside of the spraying season. In consequence freshwater biota is more or less continuously exposed to fungicides. Nevertheless, Denmark and several other countries do not monitor for fungicides. The almost constant occurrence of fungicides in stream water hints that they could have detrimental effects on exposed stream ecosystems.

Little is known about impacts of fungicides on freshwater biota – in particular on freshwater fungi. Freshwater fungi are central organisms in freshwater food webs facilitating organic matter turnover and nutrient cycling. Moreover, they constitute an important food resource for macroinvertebrate consumers. Early evidence points to reduced rates of organic matter decomposition, reduced biomass and changed species composition of freshwater fungi as consequences of fungicide exposure. Moreover, macroinvertebrate consumers of organic matter may be indirectly affected by the changes in fungi community structure possibly leading to reduced fitness of the macroinvertebrates and reduced ecological capabilities.

A new project (Coordinated by Jes Rasmussen), funded by the Carlsberg Foundation, aims to provide insight into the effects of fungicides on freshwater fungi. Importantly the project also aims to investigate how changes in fungal communities cascade to higher trophic levels (macroinvertebrate consumers). The aims are intended to be addressed in field-realistic laboratory experiments, but actual field work may be implemented depending on the interest of the student. The project runs from 01.06.2014 to 31.12.2015. If you are interested in cross-disciplinary work between ecology and ecotoxicology and the effects of pesticides on non-target organisms, several MSc projects could be conducted within this area. You would be given a chance to contribute with producing knowledge highly needed by the society in order to include fungicides in the Danish monitoring program, and improve risk assessment and mitigation efforts with respect to fungicides.

Possible focus areas could be (but not restricted to):

  • Fungi community succession under fungicide stress
  • Substrate types and their influence on fungicide effects on fungi
  • Role of fungi community composition in macroinvertebrate food choices
  • Role of food quality (fungi species and biomass) for fitness and life cycle of macroinvertebrate consumers
  • Fungal community tolerance to fungicides


Contact: Jes Rasmussen (, Telephone: 87 15 87 79