, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1362–1371 | Cite as

Effects of intra- and interspecific competition on the sensitivity of Daphnia magna populations to the fungicide carbendazim

  • Ana Isabel Del Arco
  • Andreu Rico
  • Paul J. van den Brink


The ecological risk assessment of pesticides is generally based on toxicity data obtained from single-species laboratory experiments and does not take into account ecological interactions such as competition or predation. Intraspecific and interspecific competition are expected to result in additional stress and might increase the sensitivity of aquatic populations to pesticide contamination. To test this hypothesis, the effects of the fungicide carbendazim were assessed on the population dynamics of the micro-crustacean Daphnia magna under different levels of intraspecific and interspecific competition for an algal food resource, using the rotifer Brachionus calyciflorus as competing species. The experiments were performed in glass jars with three different carbendazim concentrations (i.e., 50, 100 and 150 µg/L), and had a duration of 25 days, with a 4-day pre-treatment period in which competition was allowed to take place and a 21-day exposure period. The endpoints evaluated were D. magna total population abundance and population structure. Results of these experiments show that competition stress on its own had a significant influence on shaping D. magna population’s structure, however, a different response was observed in the intraspecific and interspecific competition experiments. The use of a 4-day pre-treatment period in the intraspecific experiment already led to an absence of interactive effects due to the quick abundance confluence between the different intraspecific treatments, thus not allowing the observation of interactive effects between competition and carbendazim stress. Results of the interspecific competition experiment showed that rotifers were quickly outcompeted by D. magna and that D. magna even profited from the rotifer presence through exploitative competition, which alleviated the original stress caused by the algal resource limitation. These experiments suggest that competition interactions play an important role in defining population-level effects of pesticides in a more complex way than was hypothesized (“increasing competition leading to a sensitivity increase”), as the interspecific experiment showed. Therefore, these should be taken into account in the extrapolation of single-species toxicity data to protect higher levels of biological organization.


Competition Pesticides Ecological interactions Carbendazim Ecological risk assessment 



The authors thank John Beijer, Marie-Claire Boerwinkel and Ivo Roessink for providing useful advices, and Carry van Mameren and Steven Crum for performing the chemical analysis. The Chimera project is financed by the Long Range Initiative of CEFIC (; Project code: LRI-ECO19). The authors would also like to thank Jaén University for its financial support for a research stay of Ana Isabel Del Arco Ochoa at Wageningen University.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Isabel Del Arco
    • 1
  • Andreu Rico
    • 2
  • Paul J. van den Brink
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology, Animal Biology and EcologyJaén UniversityJaénSpain
  2. 2.AlterraWageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality ManagementWageningen University, Wageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands

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