Effects of apple orchard management strategies on the great tit (Parus major) in southeastern france



The impact of conventional, organic, and integrated pest management (IPM) strategies of apple orchards on the reproduction of the great tit Parus major was investigated during a three-year period in southeastern France. The colonization process, egg-laying dates, clutch sizes, and fledging success were similar among pairs of P. major nesting in orchards conducted under the three studied management strategies. However, the mean number of young produced per ha (orchard productivity) was significantly higher in organic orchards than in both conventional and IPM orchards. Such divergences between both fledging success and orchard productivity primarily resulted from higher densities of P. major nesting pairs, but also from lower rates of nest abandonment during incubation in organic orchards. We suggest that intensive pesticide use under both IPM and conventional managements may have resulted in a substantial reduction in insect prey availability that enhanced intraspecific competition, which then led to failure in reproduction in pairs with low competitive ability. Our results highlight the relevance of P. major in assessing the environmental impact of apple orchard management strategies.