Ecosystem services in orchards. A review

  • Constance Demestihas
  • Daniel Plénet
  • Michel Génard
  • Christiane Raynal
  • Françoise Lescourret
Review Article


Arboriculture must maintain acceptable fruit production levels while preserving natural resources. This duality can be analyzed with the concept of ecosystem service. We reviewed the literature on orchards to explain how ecological functions modified by agricultural practices provide six ecosystem services - fruit production, climate regulation, soil nitrogen availability, water regulation, pest and disease control, and pollination - and which indicators could describe them. The major points are, first, that orchards have a high potential of multiple services. They can sequester from 2.4 to 12.5 t C/ha/year. Their perennial character and multi-strata habitat, as well as the opportunity of creating diversified hedgerows and cover crops in alleys, may contribute to a high level of biodiversity and related services. Second, every service depends on many functions. Fruit yield, which could reach up to 140 t/ha in apple orchards, is increased by light interception, carbon allocation, and nitrogen and water uptake. Third, agricultural practices in orchards have a strong impact on ecosystem functions and, consequently, on ecosystem services. Overfertilization enhances nitrogen leaching, which reduces soil nitrogen availability for the plant and deteriorates the quality of drained water. Groundcover increases humification and reduces denitrification and runoff, thus enhancing soil nitrogen availability and water regulation. It also enhances biotic interactions responsible for pest control and pollination. Pruning may increase fruit quality trough a better carbon allocation but decreases pest control by fostering the dynamics of aphids.

To study multiple ecosystem services in orchards, we suggest using models capable of simulating service profiles and their variation according to management scenarios. We then refer to the available literature to show that conflicts between provisioning and regulating services can be mitigated by agricultural practices. Improved knowledge of soil processes and carbon balance as well as new models that address multiple services are necessary to foster research on ecosystem service relationships in orchards.


Agricultural management Fruit production Climate regulation Soil nitrogen availability Water regulation Pest and disease control Pollination Indicator 



This study was funded by an industrial training agreement through a CIFRE research fellowship from the CTIFL (Centre Technique Interprofessionnel des Fruits et Légumes) and the ANRT (Association Nationale de la Recherche et de la Technologie) on behalf of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research.


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© INRA and Springer-Verlag France 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PSH, INRAAvignonFrance
  2. 2.CTIFL, Centre de Saint-RémySaint-Rémy de ProvenceFrance
  3. 3.CTIFL, Centre de LanxadePrigonrieuxFrance

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