The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides is the response of the scientific community to concern around the impact of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystems. Its intention is to provide the definitive view of science to inform more rapid and improved decision-making.
In 2009 a group of European scientists from several disciplines convened amid growing scientific concern about the rapid decline in insect and arthropod populations across Europe.
Their objective was to consider all the possible causes of the decline from the 1950s to the present time. This included the intensification of agriculture with its accompanying loss of natural habitats and massive use of pesticides and herbicides, the manifold increase in roads and motorized traffic, climate change, continent-wide nocturnal light pollution and other types of pollution and stress introduced by modernization.
During their analysis, using a range of records and data sets, the group observed a significant escalation in the decline across most species beginning in the 1990s. This began in Western Europe, followed by Eastern and Southern Europe and presented as massive collapses of different species, genera and families of arthropods. These collapses additionally coincided with the severe decline of populations of different insectivorous bird species previously considered ‘common’ such as swallows, sparrows and shrikes.
Without any a priori assumption privileged, and on the basis of existing studies, numerous observations in the field and extensive circumstantial evidence, the group concluded that a new generation of pesticides, the persistent, systemic and neurotoxic neonicotinoids, introduced in the mid 1990’s, might be considered as one of the main causes of the escalation in decline.
To test this, the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides was established to set about a systematic meta-analysis of all the available scientific studies of the effects of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystem services with a focus on pollinators and other non-target species.