The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has awarded a £6m grant to research teams to explore the impact of pesticides and other chemicals on UK habitats and wildlife.
The research teams will be led by professor Andrew Johnson and Dr David Spurgeon, both of the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), and professor Guy Woodward at Imperial College, London.
A workshop co-hosted by NERC, including representatives from government, regulation and industry, concluded that vital research needed to be done to understand the impact that new chemicals and combinations of chemicals have on ecosystems.
The council said that because new chemicals are constantly being introduced and used in agriculture, industry and everyday life, the research would hopefully uncover unforeseen effects. It is also hoped that the research will lead to a new method for testing these impacts that can be applied to all types of ecosystems found in freshwater, at sea and on land.
The current standard method of testing determines how toxic individual chemicals are but is unable to look at the combined effects of a mixture of chemicals.
NERC associate director of research Ned Garnett said: “Healthy and productive terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems are vital to the economy and wellbeing of the UK. They play a key role in areas such as food production, providing clean water, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and supporting sustainable fish stocks, as well as supporting our wildlife.
“This research will provide new evidence on how chemicals used in farming, industry and everyday life are impacting on these environments.”