Southwood Prize 2019: early career researcher winner announced

We’re excited to announce Ségolène Humann‐Guilleminot as the winner of this year’s Southwood Prize, celebrating the best paper by an early career researcher in the 2019 (56th) volume of Journal of Applied Ecology.

Ségolène Humann-Guilleminot - SouthwoodPrize winnerSégolène’s winning paper is ‘A nation‐wide survey of neonicotinoid insecticides in agricultural land with implications for agri‐environment schemes’.

About the research

From ten years of being marketed in the mid-1990s, neonicotinoid insecticides became the most used insecticides worldwide. They were soon identified as a potential cause for the massive decline of domestic bee populations and invertebrates in general.

Two years after a ban on a subset of neonicotinoid insecticides in Europe and Switzerland, Ségolène and colleagues conducted a study to assess the extent to which neonicotinoid insecticides were still present in Swiss agro-ecosystems and their potential detrimental effects on non-target invertebrates.

Based on 700 samples of soil and vegetation, collected in more than 60 farms, they found that neonicotinoid insecticides were ubiquitous in the Swiss agricultural landscape. Soil, crop and wild vegetation samples of all conventional and integrated-production farms contained at least one neonicotinoid insecticide. More than 90% of soil, crop and wild vegetation samples of organic farms also contained at least one neonicotinoid insecticides. Combinations of two or more neonicotinoid insecticides were also detected in a majority of samples. The team estimated that such neonicotinoid residues may have significant negative impacts on non-target invertebrates with little benefits in terms of crop protection against pest species.

On the basis of their results, Ségolène and coauthorscall for a reduction in the dispersion and overuse of neonicotinoid insecticides worldwide in order to prevent any detrimental effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services associated with agroecosystems.

Journal of Applied Ecology‘s Executive Editor, Jos Barlow, had this to say about the research:

Humann‐Guilleminot et al. was a worthy winner in a very competitive field. It is a rigorous study, as the authors examined 169 fields from across lowland Switzerland, and their laboratory analysis identified five different neonicotinoid pesticides in both the soils and crops.  It is also a very significant study for policy. Not only does it show that many above-ground invertebrates are likely to suffer lethal or sub-lethal concentrations of insecticides following conventional practices, it also suggests these insecticides may be jeopardising populations of beneficial invertebrates in organic farms and ecological focus areas. Studies like this are crucial in guiding national and international farming policies, and could allow natural predator populations to play a more important role in the control of damaging pest species. In particular, Humann‐Guilleminot et al. provides robust evidence supporting the continued implementation of the EU ban on most neonicotinoid pesticides.

About the winner

Ségolène was born in 1990, in Bordeaux, France, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in organismal biology and ecology in 2012. She then went on a one-year sabbatical to Canada, where she worked as a volunteer in wild fauna rehabilitation centres before joining University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland’s laboratory of evolutionary ecophysiology in 2013 to run a three-year Master’s project.,. Ségolène  was awarded a Master’s degree with honours in 2016 and is currently working on a PhD in the restoration of alpine grasslands at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

The winning article, A nation‐wide survey of neonicotinoid insecticides in agricultural land with implications for agri‐environment schemes, along with the other shortlisted papers are free to read for a limited time in this virtual issue.

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