Farmland birds bear brunt of CAP says UK charity

By Colin Ricketts - 24 Aug 2011 14:13:40 GMT
Farmland birds bear brunt of CAP says UK charity

The RSPB, Britain's largest bird charity says new figures showing record declines in farmland bird populations point to the need for reform of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme surveyed 145 common European bird species in 25 countries between 1980 and 2009 and farmland birds were the most at risk species with their numbers at an all time low.

Five of the ten most threatened bird species in Europe are farmland dwellers according to the survey. In the UK these include the grey partridge, with numbers down by 90 percent and the linnet, which has seen a drop in numbers of more than half.

CAP reform is on the way, with proposals for chance due to be published in October.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is pushing for a more wildlife-friendly CAP, with cash for farmers who protect habitats.

Jenna Hegarty, RSPB CAP policy officer, said: "We know that farmland birds have halved in number in the UK since the 1970s, but these shocking figures show that the story is the same across Europe.

"This is no coincidence - the one thing that farmed landscapes in European countries all have in common is that they are shaped by the Common Agricultural Policy. This policy has helped farmers to produce more food, but wildlife has suffered as a result.

"Now we have an opportunity to reform the CAP and make it address today's challenges - one of which is a massive loss of biodiversity across Europe. With proper targeted funding for wildlife friendly farming and effective and efficient schemes in place we can reverse these declines and make our countryside richer and healthier for birds, plants, insects and people as well as producing food."

The European Union missed its biodiversity conservation target for 2010, and the RSPB says it will miss the 2020 target too if more isn't done. The charity says plans to cut some environmental agricultural funds and the decision to allow member states to shift cash away from agri-environment schemes don't augur well for the future.

The charity also says that while the EU has an ambitious policy on biodiversity, aiming to "halt the deterioration in the status of all species and habitats covered by EU nature legislation," nothing has yet been done to see this become a reality.

Top Image Credit: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker © Cristian64