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Half of field birds gone, modern farms to blame

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Half of field birds gone, modern farms to blame
A skylark. Photo: DPA
15:48 CEST+02:00
Intensive farming methods have halved the number of field birds in Europe over the last three decades, with more than a million skylarks gone from German skies since 1990, new figures show.

The German Office for Nature Protection (BfN) in Bonn issued the depressing figures on Tuesday, which showed that for every species that had increased in population, four were shrinking. Data on 37 species were examined for the report.

“In Germany alone, since 1990 more than a million skylarks have been silenced, a development which is worrying,” said Beate Jessel, BfN president.

“This is just one example of species whose populations are suffering from the intensity of land use.”

European Union agricultural subsidy policies had, “strengthened the trend towards nature- and environmentally damaging practices,” the office said in a statement.

There were considerably fewer green areas in Germany, while use of arable land had intensified and planting of maize had increased, it said. Hedges and uncultivated borders between fields were disappearing, changing the character of the agricultural landscape, the report said, and reducing biological diversity.

Bird researchers say the population of even common species had been collapsing. “In the last two decades there has been a reduction of two thirds in tree sparrow population, while we only have a third of the number of lapwings,” said Bernd Hälterlein, chairman of the umbrella organisation of bird groups in Germany.

“The Europe-wide collapse of numbers in partridges has become dramatic, with more than 90 percent gone over the last three decades,” he said.

The BfN said changes needed to be made in European agricultural policy, with one important necessary step being to link direct subsidies to environmentally sustainable methods.

At least seven percent of land should be left uncultivated to leave space for plants and animals, the office suggested.

DPA/The Local/hc

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