Ecotoxicology at INRA
Ecotoxicology has a long history at INRA. Between the early 1970s and 1997, several scientists were developing this theme in the Phytopharmacology and Ecotoxicology Division, which in 1998 became the Plant Health and Environment Division (SPE). Then, until 2004, INRA, driven by the Scientific Directorate for the Environment and Natural and Cultivated Ecosystems (ECONAT), implemented a transversal "Ecotoxicology" action. This notably enabled the development of aquatic ecotoxicology within INRA's Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology Division (EFPA), and particularly its research units based in Rennes and Thonon-les-Bains. Ecotoxicology was at that time closely linked with the bodies responsible for reviewing applications for the approval of pesticides, such as the Joint Scientific Structure (SSM) in Versailles.
In 2003, the scientific management of ECONAT entrusted Jean-Pierre Cravedi (Nutrition, Chemical Food Safety and Consumer Behaviour Division, ALIMH) with initiating a foresight study on the development of ecotoxicology research at INRA. The following year, the recommendations in his report led to the gradual structuring of work in this area within the Institute:
- Maintenance of aquatic ecotoxicology at the centres in Rennes and Thonon-les-Bains,
- Management of terrestrial ecotoxicology by the SPE Division under its strategic plan for 2004-2007, and development of a terrestrial ecotoxicology cluster in Versailles involving the Environment and Agronomy (EA) and SPE Divisions, with the creation in 2006 of the Research Unit for the Physico-chemistry and Ecotoxicology of Soils from Contaminated Agrosystems (UR PESSAC), which in 2015 became the Joint Research Unit for the Functional Ecology and Ecotoxicology of Agroecosystems (UMR EcoSys),
- Creation in 2009 by the SPE Division of INRA's Network of Ecotoxicologists, with support from the EFPA and EA Divisions.
In 2011, the Network of Ecotoxicologists merged with INRA's Network on the Ecodynamics of Micropollutants. And finally, in 2013, the SPE Division transferred support for the network to the SMaCH metaprogramme (Sustainable Management of Crop Health) through its key action ECOTOX.
Numerous scientists from INRA or partner institutions have joined the network, which is now a structure that extends far beyond the framework of the Institute.
Network management team
The network is managed by four INRA scientists: Agnès Bouchez from the Alpine Research Centre for Food Webs in Lentic Ecosystems (UMR 0042 CARRTEL) in Thonon-les-Bains, Laurence Denaix from the Joint Research Unit on Atmosphere-Plant-Soil Interactions (UMR 1391 ISPA) in Bordeaux, Fabrice Martin-Laurent from the Joint Research Unit for Agroecology (UMR 1347) in Dijon and Christian Mougin from the Joint Research Unit for the Functional Ecology and Ecotoxicology of Agroecosystems (UMR 1402 EcoSys) in Versailles. Christine Sireyjol assures scientific watch and maintenance of the internet portal.
Thierry Caquet, Head of the EFPA Division, participates in the network's discussions.
Scope of the network
In November 2015, the network counted some 150 members:
- 80 members belonging to 24 units attached to INRA (U(M)R, USC, UE, US) belonging to five of the Institute's Research Divisions: SPE, EA, EFPA, AlimH, Animal Health (SA), Animal Physiology and Livestock Systems (PHASE).
- 70 members belonging to non-INRA entities: IRSTEA, IRSN, Ifremer, CEA, CNRS, universities, specialised schools, etc.
The network has its own website at: http://www6.inra.fr/ecotox, a circulation list: firstname.lastname@example.org, and issues a bimonthly watch bulletin.
Topics addressed by the network
The network addresses ecotoxicology in its broadest and historical sense. Its activities focus in particular on four main research areas:
- The ecodynamics and bioavailability of contaminants, exposure of living organisms,
- Physiological and behavioural changes affecting,
- Changes to the dynamics and functioning of populations and communities,
- Modelling associated with the three themes described above.
The objectives of the network are to:
- Contribute to the national debate and the programming of research in ecotoxicology,
- Identify new research questions posed to ecotoxicologists,
- Encourage the exploitation of research results obtained by its members,
- Contribute to the organisation of scientific events.
Achievements of the network
Contribution to the national debate and the programming of research in ecotoxicology
The network contributes to the national debate and the programming of research in ecotoxicology. Through its managers or members, it is represented on the management bodies of several other networks or structures (the Multidisciplinary Thematic Network on Microbial Ecotoxicology (RTP EcotoxicoMic), the ANTIOPES network, the "Medicines in the Environment" Scientific Interest Group (GIS "Médicaments dans l'environnement"), the "Toxinelle" Scientific Interest Group, the Rovaltain Scientific Foundation, etc.). Experts in ecotoxicology belonging to the AllEnvi thematic group on "Environmental, Natural and Ecotoxicological Risks" are also members of the network. In this setting, they are involved in the annual programming of the National Research Agency. Finally, we interact with learned societies such as the Association for Research in Toxicology (ARET) and the Society for Fundamental and Applied Ecotoxicology (SEFA).
The network may also become involved in the construction of inter-unit and inter-institution research projects. It thus provides support for meetings in preparation for the development of major projects.
Within INRA, the network is involved in the ECOTOX key action of the metaprogramme on the Sustainable Management of Crop Health (SMaCH).
Identification of new research questions posed to ecotoxicologists
Network seminars (ideally every three years) enable the programming of foresight workshops that drive the emergence of new research questions. As from 2016, we hope to be setting up thematic meetings focused on specific issues, with the same objective.
The network makes every effort to foster exchanges between ecotoxicologists working in aquatic and terrestrial environments.
Encouraging the exploitation of research results obtained by network members
The network supports collective scientific production. A special issue on “ECOTOX, INRA's network of ecotoxicologists” is currently being prepared by the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.
The network is also participating in the editorial board and the compilation of chapters for the "Ecotoxicology" collection planned by ISTE Editions.
In addition, several network members sit on the editorial boards of peer-reviewed scientific journals, and are involved on an individual basis in scientific publishing. They are also asked to participate in inter-agency collective scientific expert reports; for example, the work in 2014 led jointly by INRA, CNRS and IRSTEA on the use of fertilising waste materials in agriculture and forestry: agronomic, environmental and socioeconomic impacts (Mafor).
Finally, the network aims to produce bibliographical summaries, meta-analyses, thematic data sheets and dossiers on subjects of topical interest.
Contribution to the organisation of scientific events
As well as internal seminars (1999, 2002, 2006, 2011 and 2014), the network contributes to the organisation of seminars and symposia of national importance, such as:
- Symposium of the Society for Fundamental and Applied Ecotoxicology (2010),
- Symposia for the the Multidisciplinary Thematic Network on Microbial Ecotoxicology (EcotoxicoMic) (2013, 2014 and 2016),
- INRA/AllEnvi seminar on pesticides, ecotoxicology and environmental exposure (2014),
- Meeting on "Ecological and biological traits of soil organisms - TEBIS 4" (2015),
- ANTIOPES symposium on "Predictive toxicology and ecotoxicology: from the applied to the operational" (2016).
Initiation of thematic watch
Since 2012, the network has been operating a thematic watch system in order to accumulate different types of information (scientific, societal, etc.) concerning ecotoxicology, circulate it to its members and produce summary documents (data sheets, etc.).
Network members take part in standardisation studies for ecotoxicology via the AFNOR (group T95E) or ISO (ISO/TC 190/SC 4). This work has been the source of several international standards that have either been published or are currently being validated.
Members also participate in expert review bodies (ANSES, EFSA, etc.).