Pesticides lead to surface water pollution and ecotoxicological effects on aquatic biota. Novel strategies are required to evaluate the contribution of degradation to the overall pesticide dissipation in surface waters. Here, we combined polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS) with compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA) to trace in situ pesticide degradation in artificial ponds and agricultural streams. The application of pesticide CSIA to surface waters is currently restricted due to environmental concentrations in the low μg.L−1 range, requiring processing of large water volumes. A series of laboratory experiments showed that POCIS enables preconcentration and accurate recording of
the carbon isotope signatures (δ13C) of common pesticides under simulated surface water conditions and for various scenarios. Commercial and in-house POCIS did not significantly (Δδ13C < 1%) change the δ13C of pesticides during uptake, extraction, and δ13Cmeasurements of pesticides, independently of the pesticide concentrations (1–10 μg.L−1) or the flow speeds (6 or 14 cm.s−1). However, simulated rainfall events of pesticide runoff affected the δ13C of pesticides in POCIS.
In-house POCIS coupled with CSIA of pesticides were also tested under different field conditions, including three flowthrough and off-stream ponds and one stream receiving pesticides fromagricultural catchments. The POCIS-CSIAmethod enabled to determine whether degradation of S-metolachlor and dimethomorph mainly occurred in agricultural soil or surface waters. Comparison of δ13C of S-metolachlor in POCIS deployed in a stream with δ13C of S-metolachlor in commercial formulations suggested runoff of fresh S-metolachlor in the midstream sampling site, which was not recorded in grab samples. Altogether, our study highlights that the POCIS-CSIA approach represents a unique opportunity to evaluate the contribution of degradation to the overall dissipation of pesticides in surface waters.