Enabling forecasts of environmental exposure to chemicals in European agriculture under global change

John D Hader, Taylor Lane, Alistair B A Boxall, Matthew MacLeod, Antonio Di Guardo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


European agricultural development in the 21st century will be affected by a host of global changes, including climate change, changes in agricultural technologies and practices, and a shift towards a circular economy. The type and quantity of chemicals used, emitted, and cycled through agricultural systems in Europe will change, driven by shifts in the use patterns of pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals, reclaimed wastewater used for irrigation, and biosolids. Climate change will also impact the chemical persistence, fate, and transport processes that dictate environmental exposure. Here, we review the literature to identify research that will enable scenario-based forecasting of environmental exposures to organic chemicals in European agriculture under global change. Enabling exposure forecasts requires understanding current and possible future 1.) emissions, 2.) persistence and transformation, and 3.) fate and transport of agricultural chemicals. We discuss current knowledge in these three areas, the impact global change drivers may have on them, and we identify knowledge and data gaps that must be overcome to enable predictive scenario-based forecasts of environmental exposure under global change. Key research gaps identified are: improved understanding of relationships between global change and chemical emissions in agricultural settings; better understanding of environment-microbe interactions in the context of chemical degradation under future conditions; and better methods for downscaling climate change-driven intense precipitation events for chemical fate and transport modelling. We introduce a set of narrative Agricultural Chemical Exposure (ACE) scenarios - augmenting the IPCC's Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs) - as a framework for forecasting chemical exposure in European agriculture. The proposed ACE scenarios cover a plausible range of optimistic to pessimistic 21st century development pathways. Filling the knowledge and data gaps identified within this study and using the ACE scenario approach for chemical exposure forecasting will support stakeholder planning and regulatory intervention strategies to ensure European agricultural practices develop in a sustainable manner.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156478
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date17 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors.


  • Agriculture/methods
  • Agrochemicals
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Forecasting
  • Veterinary Drugs

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