ECOCENE – Ecological Effects of Nanopesticides to Soil Ecosystems


Rui Guilherme da Costa Morgado


Programa Operacional Competitividade e Internacionalização (02/SAICT/2017)


20/07/2018 - 19/07/2022

Funding for CESAM

239694 €

Total Funding

239694 €

Increasing food production is utterly needed. Nanopesticides offer a promising solution and constitute a rapidly developing technology. There are however, no solid conclusions about their risks to the environment because limited research addressed their ecological effects in a holistic and integrated fashion. Ecotoxicological research on nanopesticides has mostly focused on screening-level experiments. These neglect forces that shape ecosystems, overlooking indirect and long-term effects that go unnoticed or only arise at higher trophic levels. New approaches are crucial to improve the accuracy of extrapolations to natural scenarios. ECOCENE will develop an integrative framework to assess long-term impacts of nanopesticides to soil ecosystems. A stepwise approach that integrates increasingly complex test systems and modelling methods will be implemented, first within the context of an artificial model food web and finally in real soil communities. The model food web represents a case study for soil/terrestrial ecosystems. It will be built upon both plant- and detritus-based community modules: tomato plant (producers), hornworm (herbivores), isopods and mealworm beetle (detritivores), spiders and carabids (invertebrate predators) and lizards (top predators). Single-species toxicity tests will constitute the first step of the stepwise approach, where the sensitivity of each model species to nanopesticides will be assessed. Process-based models will be used to derive time-relationships between TK/TD and population models to extrapolate outcomes. Bioaccumulation and biomagnification experiments will then be performed to understand if the nano configuration affects the uptake and elimination of nanopesticides. A trait-based approach based on behavioural hypervolumes will be implemented to understand how nanopesticides affect species interactions within food webs and the implications for food web stability. This information will strengthen our predictive capacity to interpret the results. A comprehensive outdoor mesocosm experiment that includes the whole model food web and will provide an integrative perspective of prolonged exposures to nanopesticides to differently assembled communities. A complex array of structural, functional or toxicological endpoints will be assessed. Finally, an outdoor Terrestrial Model Ecosystems experiment, will be performed to assess the effects of nanopesticides to natural soil communities. This will be an opportunity to test the hypothesis developed during previous stages, in the context of real soil communities. The last step will be the integration of the information in an Environmental Risk Assessment for nanopesticides. By merging several innovative methods and crossing multiple organization levels, we offer a promising approach to evaluate the functioning and dynamics of nanopesticide-contaminated soils, contributing for comprehensive predictions of environmental hazard.

CESAM members in the project

Maria D. Pavlaki

Investigadora Doutorada

Rui Guilherme da Costa Morgado

Investigador Doutorado