Spatial distribution of Aglais urticae (L.) and its host plant Urtica dioica (L.) in an agricultural landscape: implications for Bt maize risk assessment and post-market monitoring
Aachen University, Institute of Environmental Research, Chair of Ecology, Ecotoxicology and Ecochemistry, Worringerweg 1, 52062 Aachen, Germany
2 Steinkaulstr. 46, 52070 Aachen, Germany
Corresponding author: email@example.com
Over the past decades, genes of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Berliner) (Bt) coding for protein toxins have been engineered into maize for protection against the European Corn Borer (Ostrinia nubilalis (Hbn.)). However, these transgenic plants may have an impact on non-target organisms. In particular, a potential hazard was identified for non-target lepidopteran larvae, if they consume Bt maize pollen on their host plants. Risk can be defined as a function of the effect of an event (hazard) and the likelihood of this event occurring. Although data on toxicity (hazard) are available from many lab and field studies, knowledge about the environmental exposure of European lepidopteran larvae is incomplete at the population level. Therefore we studied the distribution of small tortoiseshell caterpillars (Aglais urticae (L.)) and its host plant in an agricultural landscape in Germany, to estimate the potential population exposure to maize pollen. The results showed that larvae of the small tortoiseshell developed primarily on freshly sprouted nettle stands (Urtica dioica (L.)) in field margins, rather than adjacent to hedges and groves. However, the main distribution was at margins of cereal (non-maize) fields, where 70% of all larvae were found. This may be due the fact that cereals covered 54% of the survey area, while maize only covered 6.1%. On the other hand, maize fields seem so show higher food plant densities than cereal crops. The results must be interpreted carefully, as the data basis of the present study is very small, and the situation can vary between years due to crop rotation or other changes in agricultural practices. Therefore it is still questionable whether the small tortoiseshell is significantly exposed to maize pollen. For a conclusive risk assessment, more replications and surveys of larger areas in different intensively managed agricultural landscapes over several years are needed.
Key words: Lepidoptera / GMO / risk assessment / post market monitoring / GIS
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