The value of increased spatial resolution of pesticide usage data for assessing risk to endangered species

Erin L. Murphy, Steffen Eikenberry, Gwenllian Iacona, Greg Watson, Leah R. Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Decision makers often cite data quality as a limitation in environmental management. Value of information approaches evaluate the benefit of new data collection for management outcomes. Pesticide exposure risk assessment for endangered species is one context where data limitations may affect decisions and a value of information type approach could be useful for identifying optimal data quality and resolution. Under the U.S. Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for registering pesticides before they can be sold and regularly reviewing pesticides. Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires that the EPA consider potential impacts of pesticides to listed endangered species and critical habitats in this process, and for the Services—U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service—to complete a formal Section 7 consultation if the EPA deems it necessary. The current process is time-intensive, lacks transparency and confidence among stakeholders, and leaves hundreds of unreviewed pesticides on the market. Increasing the resolution of pesticide usage data could address these concerns by improving estimated overlaps between species ranges and pesticide usage. Thus, we evaluated the relative importance of different resolutions of pesticide usage data for assessing expected carbaryl exposure to endangered plant species endemic to California. We found that spatially explicit, township resolution usage data (~36 mile2) excluded 33% of terrestrial plants (55/168) and 51% their critical habitats (27/53) from requiring a Section 7 consultation, while coarser resolution data excluded none. In contrast, the EPA's biological evaluation for carbaryl only excludes 4% of terrestrial plants (nationally) from requiring formal Section 7 consultation. This suggests high-resolution data could increase pesticide review efficiency and decrease the amount of time pesticides remain on the market without a formal evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere551
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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