Bird populations in the EU have been declining for several decades, data released by Eurostat on Friday, that marked World Environment Day, showed.
According to the EU’s statistical service, while the decline appears to be slowing down in recent years, the years between 2000 and 2018 saw a 4% decline of all common bird species and a 17% decline of the population of farmland birds. Forest birds have been faring better, recording a 7% increase in number between the same years.
The scientific community believes that major losses in populations of common farmland bird species can be attributed to changes in land use and agricultural practices, such as the disappearance of small non-productive landscape elements including hedges and windbreaks, and the use of pesticides.
The effects of these drivers could be reversed by the recently adopted Farm to Fork Strategy, proposed by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, seeking to reduce by 50% the overall use of and risk from chemical pesticides by 2030.
Similarly effective could be the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which aims to bring back at least 10% of agricultural areas under high-diversity landscape features and enlarge the area under organic farming so that it accounts for 25% of the total farmed land of the EU by 2030.
Birds are considered to be good indicators of the diversity and integrity of ecosystems as their populations reflect changes in the populations of species they feed on, such as insects. Birds are highly mobile – they can move elsewhere when their environment becomes unsuitable.
This is why the presence, abundance and diversity of bird species tell a story about the condition of the environment and its development over time. Very importantly, birds are easy to observe (compared to most other groups of animals) and attractive to the public to monitor, hence a lot of data from bird observation are available, Eurostat says.