dimecres, 19 de novembre de 2008

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RSPB urges swift action to restore threatened farmland birds


The UK government has revealed that the populations of some iconic countryside birds fell last year to their lowest levels since 1970. The RSPB (BirdLife in UK) believes that following the removal of set-aside earlier this year, further declines in farmland birds are inevitable.

The Society is urging the government to take swift action to restore the fortunes of these birds.
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently published data revealing further declines in the overall numbers of farmland birds across the UK. Analysis of the figures reveals that the collective population of farmland birds, including Grey Partridge Perdix perdix, Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus and European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur, has fallen to less than half of the level in 1970.

Gareth Morgan, RSPB’s lead agricultural policy officer, commented: “the further drop in the numbers of some farmland birds is deeply troubling. This is a credit crunch for birds. We know the general intensification of farming, driven by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), has accounted for the majority of the historic decline in farmland birds, but with good conservation support now available for farmers this year’s results are dismaying”.

“Todays shock results provide a clarion call of the need to stave off further declines of farmland birds. In partnership with farmers we need to ensure the best wildlife-friendly farming techniques are used to give our farmland birds the greatest chance of survival”.

In light of these figures, the RSPB is calling for more farm subsidies to be diverted to environmental schemes around the UK and for better use to be made of the resources already available.

The RSPB is particularly concerned about further declines of farmland birds that will inevitably be triggered by the scrapping of set-aside earlier this year. This measure took farmland out of agricultural food production and provided beneficial habitats for many farmland birds.
Gareth Morgan added: "the declines in farmland birds reported today do not include those that will be lost because of the scrapping of set-aside. Unless compensatory measures can be put in place to cover the void left by the removal of set-aside, farmland birds will continue to slide, putting even more extreme pressure on some populations”.

Since 1999, the RSPB has owned a 181 hectare farm in Cambridgeshire. This farm is among the best farms for profitability in the region and here the population of farmland birds has bucked the national trend. Between 2000-2007 the numbers of farmland birds doubled in the RSPB's farm whilst numbers in the wider UK landscape dropped by around 6%.

Gareth Morgan added: “using the measures available to all farmers, the RSPB has proved that combining productive farming with rising numbers of farmland birds is easily achievable. We are eager to share our knowledge and successes with other farmers to put bird song back into the countryside”.

Ariel Brunner, EU Agriculture Policy Officer at BirdLife European Division commented: “the situation in the UK clearly shows how utterly ineffective the current CAP is in dealing with the environmental crisis affecting our countryside. Agri-environmental schemes are severely underfunded while over-intensification is proceeding unchecked. Unfortunately, as the recent abolition of set-aside shows, EU decision-makers keep ignoring scientific evidence and prefer to keep accommodating the vested interests of the minority of farmers that pocket most EU subsidies without delivering the public goods society needs”.

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Credits: RSPB

Fotografia: Cruixidell (Embereiza calandra), Xavier Romera
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