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A Defining Moment?

Now is the time to save threatened farmland birds…

Farmers hold the key to saving threatened bird species in the UK, the RSPB will say at a conference in Leicester this week.

The RSPB’s Head of Species Recovery, Andy Evans, will lay out the case for birds and other wildlife to be better protected on farmland with the stark message, “If we can’t fix this then we haven’t got a hope of tackling the wider challenge of climate change – failure is not an option.”

The British Ornithologist’s Union conference at the University of Leicester, which opened today (Tuesday March 31), sees experts from across the UK and Europe gathering to discuss how threatened farmland birds can be protected for future generations.

Rounding off three days of talks and workshops on finding solutions to declining farmland bird populations, Andy Evans will give the event’s final address on Thursday, ‘Lowland Farmland Bird Recovery: A Defining Moment?’. In it he will tell the conference that the research is irrefutable and now is the time for action.“Despite 15 years of research into the causes of the decline, we have failed to deliver the recovery of farmland birds,” he said. “This is because modern farms do not automatically provide the food and shelter for birds species that they did 30 years ago and valuable environmental stewardship schemes are not being taken up in a way that will sufficiently compensate for that loss. Overall the schemes are popular, however in-field measures in England such as skylark plots have a low uptake because they need to fit in with farming operations. In 2007 the Government’s Farmland Bird Index was at the lowest level ever recorded – a clear sign that we are not using the land in a sustainable way and time is running out. We need to reverse that decline and support farmers to challenge the outdated idea that the farming industry’s function is to produce food and nothing else.

The corn bunting has become extinct in Wales within the last five years and the turtle dove will go the same way unless something is done. The RSPB is committed to advising and helping farmers to maximise the potential for wildlife on their land without hitting their profits. The solutions are available, but they need to be taken up by the farming industry.

I believe this is a microcosm of the bigger problem we are facing. If we can’t reach a sustainable place where food production is in harmony with wildlife then how on earth can we begin to tackle the wider related issue of climate change in the world?”
The Farmland Bird Index lists the 19 species of bird, which rely on farmland for their survival. Of these 9 are also on the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List which has been drawn up by the leading governmental and non-governmental conservation organisations in the UK and features those species facing a worrying decline in numbers. These include the corn bunting, yellowhammer, skylark and grey partridge.

4th July 2014