We describe a stochastic simulation model that simulates avian foraging in an agricultural landscape to evaluate factors affecting dietary insecticide exposure and to predict post-exposure cholinesterase (ChE) inhibition. To evaluate the model, we simulated published field studies and found that model predictions of insecticide decay and ChE inhibition reasonably approximated most observed results. Sensitivity analysis suggested that foraging location usually influenced ChE inhibition more than diet preferences or daily intake rate. Although organophosphorus insecticides usually caused greater inhibition than carbamate insecticides, insecticide toxicity appeared only moderately important. When we simulated impact of heavy insecticide applications during breeding seasons of 15 wild bird species, mean maximum ChE inhibition in most species exceeded 20% at some point. At this level of inhibition, birds may experience nausea and/or may exhibit minor behavioral changes. Simulated risk peaked in April-May and August-September and was lowest in July. ChE inhibition increased with proportion of vegetation in the diet. This model, and ones like it, may help predict insecticide exposure of and sublethal ChE inhibition in grassland animals, thereby reducing dependence of ecological risk assessments on field studies alone.
Additional publication details
Simulating cholinesterase inhibition in birds caused by dietary insecticide exposure