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Earthworms (L. terrestris) have dug tunnels through yellow earth and subsequently deposited casts in the top litter layer, thus mixing minerals and plant debris. Photo taken of a laboratory terrarium. © INRA, FAYOLLE Léon

Soil ecotoxicology and agroecology: partners in progress

Updating the tools and structures used for ecotoxicological research

INRA partnerships, infrastructures, and metaprogrammes dedicated to ecotoxicological research.

By Catherine Foucaud-Scheunemann, translated by Jessica Pearce
Updated on 07/31/2014
Published on 07/03/2014

Ideas about how to evaluate the impacts and outcomes of chemical compounds on the living world are changing. So are the tools and structures employed by INRA and its research partners. Partnerships for excellence are being created that focus on understanding and predicting the dynamics of socio-ecosystems; French institutions are bringing together tools that can be used to enhance our comprehension of the biological processes taking place in continental ecosystems; and INRA metaprogrammes are addressing major related issues arising in the fields of agroecology and ecotoxicology.

Labex BASC: a scientific partnership for excellence

Reflecting major national and international concerns regarding agro-ecosystems, the laboratory for excellence Biodiversity, Agroecosystems, Society, and Climate—Labex BASC (1)—is responding to the need to develop ways of measuring the environmental impacts of anthropogenic activities and global change.

The group has brought together 13 laboratories located in and around Paris to work on a multidisciplinary research project (involving climatology, genetics, evolutionary biology, ecology, ecotoxicology, agronomy, social science, and economy) aimed at understanding and predicting the dynamics of socio-ecosystems in response to global change. One of the unifying themes is applying agroecological concepts and methods to increase the viability of agroecosystems and agricultural lands and to enhance their ability to adapt to changing conditions.

AnaEE–France: A national infrastructure dedicated to ecosystem research

AnaEE–France is a research infrastructure dedicated to analyses and experiments involving ecosystems. It unites all the national research structures that can contribute to efforts to clarify the biological processes taking place in continental, aquatic, and terrestrial ecosystems. It is headed by CNRS and INRA.

AnaEE–France offers a variety of services and tools that can be used to collect and analyze samples and data, runs simulations of different ecological scenarios, diffuses scientific results to socio-economic stakeholders, and makes the entirety of its services available to the scientific community.

AnaEE–France is a central part of the AnaEE project, which is a pan-European initiative.

Within this infrastructure, the Biochem–Env (INRA Versailles-Grignon) platform supplies expertise and research facilities. It also characterizes the biochemistry of samples obtained from natural terrestrial and aquatic environments and their affiliated macrofauna. Eventually, it will also supply mathematical tools that can be used to interpret the results associated with bioindicators that have been developed.

INRA metaprogrammes: expanded research programs

The metaprogrammes set up by INRA aim to group together complementary research projects while simultaneously encouraging multidisciplinary approaches. Several of these metaprogrammes show promise in promoting combined research in agroecology and ecotoxicology:

  • SMaCH is focused on finding alternative methods of providing complete crop protection that do not involve pesticides. The group is already incorporating ecotoxicology into its thinking;
  • EcoServ is dedicated to exploring the services provided by agroecosystems.

Finally, since 2009, an INRA network of ecotoxicologists has become interested in continental aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. This network receives support from the following INRA research divisions: Plant Health and Environment; Forest, Grassland, and Freshwater Ecology; and Environment and Agronomy. It is an active, dynamic group that is intellectually vibrant and that promotes scientific exchanges.

(1) Starting in 2015, Labex BASC will also include a new research unit—Functional Ecology and Ecotoxicology of Agrosystems (EcoSys)—from the INRA center of Versailles-Grignon. This unit will focus on ecosystem services. It is the product of a fusion between the Joint Research Unit for the Environment and Arable Crops and the Research Unit for the Physico-chemistry and Ecotoxicology of Soils from Contaminated Agrosystems.