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Dramatic Collapse in French Farmland Birds

Leading scientists have warned of a looming biodiversity catastrophe which could impact the whole of Europe. Two recent studies have revealed a dramatic fall in farmland birds across France and neonicotinoid pesticides are thought to be largely to blame. Skylarks, whitethroats and ortolan bunting have been decimated and the results have serious implication for all humans.

The Silent Spring

There was a huge decline in bird populations during the 1960s as a result of intensive farming practices and this phenomenon, dubbed a silent spring, looks as if it is being repeated. Farmland bird populations in France have fallen by an average of a third over the past 15 years. Insect life is being wiped out by the pesticides but nature needs the soil fauna and pollinators that have been removed from the environment. The decline in bird populations is indicative of a serious underlying issue caused by the intensive crop production encouraged by the EU’s common agricultural policy.

Eight in Ten Partridges Lost

It is extremely disturbing to hear that eight in ten partridges have disappeared from France in the last 23 years. Dr Benoit Fontaine of France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the new studies has pointed out that if this number of human losses had occurred, we would be taking the matter more seriously.

Bird Losses Intensified

The studies have revealed that bird losses have intensified over the last two years. Even the species which are thriving in urban areas and woodland such as wood pigeons, blackbirds and chaffinches are in decline in agricultural areas. This is why the finger is being pointed firmly at farming practices. There’s a definite correlation between bird declines and reductions in insect life.

Sales of Pesticides Increasing

Sales of pesticides have been increasing in France despite the fact that the French government is aiming to halve pesticide use by 2020. All birds are directly or indirectly dependent on insects to survive. Some species eat insects, other feed insects to their young whilst birds of prey eat the birds that feed on insects.

28 Countries see Declines in Bird Populations

It is vital that more earth friendly practices are adopted by farmers to reverse the trend. The declines in France are mirrored across the continent with the population of farmland birds having dropped by 55% in 28 countries over the last thirty years. 24 species are in decline and only six are thriving. Outside of the European Union where agriculture is less intensive, the picture is much better. In these countries farmers do not receive the subsidies enjoyed by those in the EU.

Farmland Birds declining in the UK

The situation in the UK is worrying as farmland birds have declined by a massive 56% since 1970. Urgent action is required if Europe is not to endure a biodiversity catastrophe which could threaten human lives. Current farming practices simply aren’t sustainable and yet are effectively being encouraged by the existing system of subsidies.


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