Transition to organic farming negatively affects bat activity.

Published online
19 Feb 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Fialas, P. C. & Froidevaux, J. S. P. & Jones, G. & Batáry, P.
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The effectiveness of organic farming on biodiversity has been widely documented especially for plants, arthropods and birds; however, the effects of the transition period required to become an organic farm on wildlife remain poorly understood. We assessed the effects of organic farming on insectivorous bats in citrus orchards in the Republic of Cyprus employing two matched designs (conventional vs. 3-year organic-transitional and conventional vs. organic-certified) and a third unmatched design (3-year organic-transitional vs. organic-certified). We specifically investigated whether the transition period prior to full organic certification influenced bat activity with a special focus on any moderation effects from surrounding semi-natural areas. The activity of three (Pipistrellus kuhlii, Hypsugo savii and Miniopterus schreibersii) of four bat species was significantly lower in farms undergoing the transitional period than in conventional farms, and P. kuhlii and H. savii were significantly less active in organic transitional farming systems that in organic-certified ones. Furthermore, the activity of the most dominant species (P. kuhlii) was significantly higher on organic than transitional and conventional citrus orchards, thus suggesting a time-lag effect. Landscape complexity measured as the amount of semi-natural areas did not moderate the effects of farming system for any study species. Synthesis and application. The transition to organic farming had persistent detrimental effects on bats and potentially on the pest suppression services they provide. Future agri-environmental policy should consider the transition period and implement measures to mitigate any negative effects on biodiversity, alongside promoting asynchronous transition of nearby farms. Our findings further highlight the crucial need to consider the time since transition to organic farming when assessing potential benefits of organic management on biodiversity.

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