Wetenschap - 1 januari 1970

Protection for birds needed in EU agricultural policy

Protection for birds needed in EU agricultural policy

Protection for birds needed in EU agricultural policy

Of 514 bird species identified regularly in Europe, almost 40% are seriously threatened. Agricultural land has been identified as the most important single habitat where birds are becoming endangered. Agricultural practices of the last 30-40 years have greatly contributed to the worsening plight of birds. Umberto Gallo-Orsi, from BLI, BirdLife International's new Wageningen-based European division, explains the need for a new EU agricultural policy to offset this trend

Half of the EU's budget is spent on agriculture, and farmland takes up 44% of all land in EU member countries, Gallo-Orsi, BLI's Conservation Project Officer begins. But the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) puts most of its budget into subsidies, with only 3% going to the environment. This is far too little. These subsidies are largely used to support highly intensive agricultural production on the most favourable land. Gallo-Orsi reports that vast areas have developed into bird-unfriendly landscapes as a result of single-cropped fields, little crop rotation, and a lack of hedgerows. Many bird species rely on the cultivation of different crops and varied harvest times to provide them with food and shelter. Over the last 30-40 years, agriculture has also developed faster forms of mechanisation and increasingly depends on chemical use, which has had a negative impact on bird numbers and other wildlife

The EU is now updating the CAP as part of its Agenda 2000. A 1992 reform introduced a number of programmes to make farmland conditions more environmentally friendly. Re-planting of hedgerows between fields to provide shelter and food, and the reduction of chemical inputs were two consequences. But Gallo-Orsi argues that these measures have not gone far enough. BLI wants subsidies to be more evenly distributed over favourable and more marginal land, and to be contingent on environmentally friendly agricultural practices. One of BLI's main activities is the collection of research data from its various regional offices to produce inventories on birds, sites and important habitats. These inventories have proved to be useful in their lobbying efforts. Our inventories are taken very seriously by the EU, and have led to policies of greater site protection in member states.

BLI officially opened its new European office in the IBN-DLO's special ecological building in November. Along with Wetlands International, they stand out among Wageningen's research institutes as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that lobby on conservation issues. Bert Jansen, head of Communications at IBN-DLO (Forest and Nature Research Institute), reports that this is one of the reasons the two NGOs were invited to their building. The DLO institutes usually focus solely on research, but having two policy-directed organisations here allows us to mutually strengthen one another. Our research can help Wetlands and BLI in their work, and they have many international contacts and knowledge that we can also use. Am.S., photo G.A

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