Farmland birds in Europe fall to lowest levels

By BirdLife Europe, Thu, 25/08/2011 - 13:14

The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme has compiled population figures for 145 common and widespread bird species in 25 European countries between 1980 and 2009. Amongst those species covered, farmland birds are the most threatened group, with 20 out of 36 species in decline, and overall numbers at an all-time low, down by 48% since 1980.

Some of the species that have declined the most over the last three decades include familiar farmland birds like Grey Partridge Perdix perdix (–82%), Skylark Alauda arvensis (–46%), Linnet Carduelis cannabina (–62%) and Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra (–66%).

Conservationists say the results prove the need for urgent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) so that it rewards and encourages farmers who put conservation measures in place on their land. Proposals for the upcoming reform of the CAP are set to be published in October, but BirdLife Europe is concerned that they do not go far enough. It fears that the proposal does not contain enough support for agri-environment schemes which fund wildlife-friendly farming measures.

Ian Burfield, European Science and Data Manager, said: “These shocking new figures confirm that farmland birds have halved in number across Europe since 1980. While the rate of decline may have slowed in recent years, it’s clear that attempts to halt the loss have been insufficient, and that massive efforts are needed to reverse the trend.”

Trees Robijns, EU Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer, added: “The CAP is an EU-wide policy tool that has visible effects on the landscape. Until recently however, this policy has helped farmers to produce more food, but the environment and biodiversity have suffered as a result.

“Therefore we need to reorient the policy towards delivering public goods for public money. We need proper targeted funding for wildlife-friendly farming and effective and efficient schemes in place that can reverse these declines and make our countryside richer and healthier for birds, plants, insects and people – as well as producing food, feed, fuel and fibre.

“We know what the problem is and we have identified a lot of the solutions already. Now we need the decision makers to take up their responsibility and deliver a real green reform. This reform is often dubbed a ‘green reform’ so we should ensure it delivers for the environment. Otherwise, this bad news cycle will continue and this policy will come even more under attack.”

Recent EU Budget announcements have made it clear that decision makers plan to allocate less money to Pillar 2 which contains very valuable environmental payments. A recent leaked CAP document has also revealed that they plan to allow Member States to move money away from agrienvironment schemes and into other areas.

The results of the European bird population survey suggest that after missing its 2010 biodiversity conservation target, the EU will go on to miss the 2020 biodiversity conservation target unless decisive and urgent action is taken.

Trees Robijns adds: “The integration of the biodiversity target into other areas like agriculture, where the threats are so evident, is a real must. If we fail to provide the adequate tools to tackle the roots of this problem, we are in fact undermining any possibility of achieving the biodiversity targets.”

The new EU Biodiversity Strategy commits the EU to "halt the deterioration in the status of all species and habitats covered by EU nature legislation”. Although Member States endorsed the new strategy in June this year, they have yet to agree on commitments to deliver the actions needed to achieve its aims.

Europe and Central Asia Advocating for sustainable agriculture


Bird Loss. The news that we have lost half our farm birds; (Bird Life Europe) is more than shocking; it shows just how far the assault on nature has gone.. I wonder how much of this is down to the Irish REPS scheme and local authority policy of reducing our hedgerows down to mangled, shorn stumps; thus removing habitat; nesting sites, food supply, shade and shelter? A blind Goose could see the results of this coming; but perhaps blind geese too are loosing their foothold here.

Unfortunately due to a wrong approach of the CAP and plans implemented by individual Mediterranean regions there is a risk of seeing many species of birds closely related to agricultural environments disappear. I can only say that as far as Sardinia only a revival of the sheep, the predominant activities in the island, may allow species such as Linnet, the shrike Shrike, the Calandra Lark and the Little Bustard, to name a few to continue to exist. In some regions of the Mediterranean because the loss of agricultural farmland is not attributable to direct human Cais, but the abandonment of the countryside which often involves an I increase of forest habitats or Mediterranean.

What is worrying here is the complete refusal of Birdlife International to accept to come forward with the correct data. There is no possibility of knowing the situation in 25 European counries in 1980, because only FOUR countries participated in the scheme in that year! If Birdlife International would like to avoid discussions on the data instead of on the trends, they should start writing the truth. I have never understood why they insist on these statements that are so easy to shoot down, just like the IPCC with their famous "hockey-stick" graph. Please accept that you should show the shocking truth for these 4 countries, and the shorter trends for the other countries, this is enough. The statement in your report is at the moment just a big lie!

European trends of common birds are typical example of statistics, which are based on a sample. Like in other situation, where we are not able to measure every single unit in a population, we rely on samples for our inferences. In the case of European species trends, we cope with missing values, i.e. missing information on trends from countries without monitoring schemes in place. The missing values are estimated using log linear Poisson regression in the programme TRIM, which became a standard procedure and tool for monitoring data in Europe. More info on imputation can be found at http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=410, http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=403, http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=413, http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=416. Data from schemes starting before 1985 (i.e. covering 1980s) come from 7 countries (http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=462#2.3.%20Types%20of%20supranational%20results%20that%20PECBMS%20produces), the data represent all the regions covered by PECBMS. Nevertheless, we are aware of potential bias in some species trends. Cases, where trends in early years might be unrepresentative, are marked in our outputs, their effect on indicator is always checked - such species would not be included in the indicator in case the data is poor and effect on the indicator significant. Furthermore, we are developing procedure for checking index and trend quality in early years using independent data sets. First results of this procedure, which has not been finished yet, were presented at the EOU conference in Riga, August 2011, in an oral presentation in a session on monitoring. There is no evidence, that our general inferences about large decline of farmland birds in Europe, is wrong. Also other information suggests decline of farmland birds in countries without monitoring scheme in place in 1980s (http://www.bou.org.uk/bouproc‐net/lfb3/vorisek‐etal.pdf ). The PECBMS results were used in 18 scientific papers since 2002, one hardly can believe that if the data is so poor, as the comment suggests, they would be used and get published in international scientific journals. The information is not perfect, but it is the best information available and we believe we would do bigger mistake by ignoring changes in bird populations in 1980s. Nothing is hidden, information on data, data quality control etc. is published at the web site, in the papers and at the meetings and conferences.

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