Assessing the ecological impact of banana farms on water quality using aquatic macroinvertebrate community composition

Ola Svensson*, Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Paul J. Van Den Brink, Michael Tedengren, Jonas S. Gunnarsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


In Costa Rica, considerable effort goes to conservation and protection of biodiversity, while at the same time agricultural pesticide use is among the highest in the world. Several protected areas, some being wetlands or marine reserves, are situated downstream large-scale banana farms, with an average of 57 pesticide applications per year. The banana industry is increasingly aware of the need to reduce their negative environmental impact, but few ecological field studies have been made to evaluate the efficiency of proposed mitigation strategies. This study compared the composition of benthic macroinvertebrate communities up- and downstream effluent water from banana farms in order to assess whether benthic invertebrate community structure can be used to detect environmental impact of banana farming, and thereby usable to assess improvements in management practises. Aquatic invertebrate samples were collected at 13 sites, using kick-net sampling, both up- and downstream banana farms in fast flowing streams in the Caribbean zone of Costa Rica. In total, 2888 invertebrate specimens were collected, belonging to 15 orders and 48 families or taxa. The change in community composition was analysed using multivariate statistics. Additionally, a biodiversity index and the Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP) score system was applied along with a number of community composition descriptors. Multivariate analyses indicated that surface waters immediately up- and downstream large-scale banana farms have different macroinvertebrate community compositions with the most evident differences being higher dominance by a single taxa and a much higher total abundance, mostly of that same taxon. Assessment of macroinvertebrate community composition thus appears to be a viable approach to detect negative impact from chemical-intensive agriculture and could become an effective means to monitor the efficacy of changes/proposed improvements in farming practises in Costa Rica and similar systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13373-13381
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number14
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Banana production
  • Benthic macroinvertebrates
  • Costa Rica
  • Monitoring
  • Risk assessment
  • Water quality


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