There are 550 million fewer birds on the continent than there were 40 years ago, with research suggesting that agriculture is the main culprit
Intensive agriculture has long been suspected of being the major cause of the catastrophic decline in bird numbers across Europe. Now, a new study, published in the journal PNAS, provides conclusive evidence that this is the case. The study looked at 170 common bird species, monitored at more than 20,000 sites in 28 European countries, over 37 years. (Read how can we save the curlew?)
It concluded that agricultural intensification, in particular the much increased use of pesticides and fertilisers, is the main pressure for most bird population declines, especially for those species that depend largely on insects.
The study concentrates on what it terms anthropogenic changes — changes resulting from the influence of human beings on the environment. Though the study also considered urbanisation, forest cover and climate change, it found that it was agricultural practices that was by far the most detrimental to bird numbers.
The findings confirmed that the number of wild birds of all species across the…