Europe has lost about 600 million birds since 1980

Studies indicate a much more hostile environment today than yesterday in the Old Continent, especially for certain bird species.

Common sparrow (Passer domesticus) @BelgaImage

One in six breeding bird species has disappeared in Europe since 1980, representing some 600 million birds. Populations of particularly common species such as house sparrows, tree sparrows, golden squirrels, starlings and skybirds have declined, warns the Flemish Natuurpunt nature conservation association. The second method is based on the results of European studies conducted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the NGO BirdLife International and the Czech Institute of Cybernetics.

Approximately 18% less poultry

In total, the scientists studied 378 out of 445 species of domesticated birds in Europe. According to this study, a decline in the number of bird species from 17% to 19% between 1980 and 2017, is estimated to decrease from 560 to 620 million birds.

Species in particular are often severely damaged. The common sparrow is the worst affected species and has lost almost 50% of its population since 1980, corresponding to 247 million birds. Then comes the tree or sparrow, which has also fallen victim to changes in agricultural policy and management. These two types of finches disappeared more strongly from urban environments, possibly due to lack of food and the effects of air pollution.

Agricultural system mentioned

Among the institutes that have tried to better understand the reasons for this decline are the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) and the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. In 2018, they jointly published a study showing that France lost a third of its birds within 15 years, a rate that has been maintained even more in the last two years. The researchers then attributed the phenomenon to intensive agricultural practices. They especially note that this period “corresponds, among other things, to the end of the fallow period imposed by the general agricultural policy [européenne]wheat prices increase, the continued addition of nitrate allows wheat to have a high protein content and the synthesis of neonicotinoids“The plan is simple: insects and wild plants disappear with this intensive agriculture, so the birds no longer have to eat and they disappear one by one.

Natuurpunt also notes that the scarcity of breeding birds increased rapidly in the 80s and 90s. However, the establishment of European rules has slowed this population decline over the past decade. Within the European Union, the “Birds” and “Habitat” directives provide legal protection for a number of priority species and their habitats. Despite everything, Natuurpunt begs to establish rules on a larger scale to stem the loss of biodiversity.

In 2018, CNRS and MNHN noted that even in countries “implement proactive national policies to reverse this major trend […] no one managed to reverse the trend“.”To achieve a clear effect, practices must be changed across significant areas. Otherwise, the effects are imperceptible. It’s not the farmer’s problem, it’s the agricultural model: if we want to stop the decline of rural biodiversity, we have to change it, together with the farmers.‘, they concluded.

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