5 January 2001
UK farm bird decline ‘Europes worst’

By FWi staff

INTENSIVE agriculture has caused farmland birds to decline faster in the UK than in any other European country, according to new research.

A survey two-year of 31 European countries by the RSPB and BirdLife International found that intensive farming has done most to damage bird numbers.

Declines were most severe in Western Europe, with six of the 10 worst offenders were EU states, where farming is most intensive. Worst of all is the UK.

The five best-performing countries are all outside the EU, but every country recorded a decline in the populations which rely on farmland.

The RSPB says the data shows a direct link between population declines and indicators of agricultural intensification, including yields and tractor numbers.

Report co-author Paul Donald of the RSPB said declines exceed rates at which species such as the great auk of the north Atlantic became extinct.

That such declines are taking place in formerly common birds which have a long association with man is an event unique in human history, said Mr Donald.

The UK poor record could be attributed to particularly intensive farming and that some species at the edge of their range, suggested Mr Donald.

With 10 Eastern European countries likely to join the EU within 10 years, the RSPB fears the situation could worsen.

It has called for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to make the environment central to the future of European farming.