300 million birds lost
If you visit the European countryside today, you are unlikely to hear birdsong.
Isn’t that sad?
Farmland birds such as the lapwing, skylark and pipit, have been devastated over the last 30 years.
Their populations have been reduced by a staggering 300 million in that short time.
How has this happened? To boost agricultural production, hedgerows have been ripped up, wetlands have been drained and meadows have been ploughed up.
“one of our greatest wildlife tragedies”
A new survey by the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme showed that bird numbers have crashed as a result.
“We have been sleepwalking into a disaster” said their Chairman Richard Gregory.
Britain has been one of the nations worst affected - for example in Europe the population of grey partridges has dropped by 82% – a horrific number. Yet in the UK, that loss was 91%.
We’ve lost 300 million birds in just 30 years
Gregory cited the following examples:
- Starlings have been affected by the loss of woodlands and thus their nesting places.
- Lapwings have had their homes in marshes and riverbanks destroyed
- The grey partridge has seen intensive farming destroy the insects it needs to eat.
Credit: Giulio Frigieri
A great tragedy
“The decline of farmland birds across Europe has been one of our greatest wildlife tragedies” said Jenna Hegarty of the UK’s Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (RSPB).
And to make matters worse, the problem will probably spread. The same farming policies and intensive methods that have been used in older EU member countries are being introduced now in Bulgaria, Poland and the EU’s other, newer member nations in eastern Europe. Once they take effect, overall numbers of farmland birds will probably drop even further.
Said Gregory: “Two generations ago [this] would have seemed inconceivable”
“Apart from the removal of creatures that are beautiful to behold and beautiful to listen to, we should take note of what this means. These losses are telling us that something is seriously amiss in the world around us and the way that we are interacting with nature.”
But is it really agricultural policies that are to blame? I’ve seen a few articles which seem to say so, and even the RSPB seem to believe it.
I’m not convinced.
I’ll continue this post next week.
“something is seriously amiss in the world around us”
Photo credit: www.photo-natur.de