Indirect effects of pesticides on breeding yellowhammer(Emberiza citrinella)

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) Science Article 4


Intensification of agriculture is believed to have caused declines in farmland bird populations. One of the key elements ofrecent agricultural intensification is the increased use of pesticides. However, studies elucidating relationships betweenindividual management practices and responses in bird populations remain rare. Here, evidence is presented of indirect effects ofpesticides on behaviour and nestling condition of yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella L.). Insecticide use was associated withreduced abundance of invertebrate food at the field scale resulting, early in the season (when nestlings were fed exclusively oninvertebrates), in a negative correlation with yellowhammer foraging intensity. There was also a negative relationship betweeninsecticide use and nestling body condition. While cumulative effects of repeated spraying can have impacts, the occurrence ofany insecticide spraying in the breeding season may be more detrimental than multiple sprays at other times. Minimisingapplications of persistent broad-spectrum insecticides during March-June, the provision of alternative unsprayed foraginghabitat and advice on mitigating indirect effects of pesticides to advisers and users are likely to benefit nesting yellowhammers.

Antony J. Morris, Jeremy D. Wilson, Mark J. Whittingham, Richard B. Bradbury, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 106 (2005) 1-16

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