Birds are disappearing and wind turbines are not the first culprit

Birds are disappearing and wind turbines are not the first culprit
Birds are disappearing and wind turbines are not the first culprit

ENVIRONMENT – Wind turbines, “culprits of attacks on biodiversity” according to Stéphane Bern, do they have an impact on the disappearance of birds? Yes, without a doubt, but they are not the first in question, expose the scientists who warn about “the relentless decline” of the populations of birds, in a report published this Monday, May 31.

Between 1989 and 2019, volunteer ornithologists followed the evolution of the 123 most common bird species in France through the Common Birds Temporal Monitoring (STOC) program. Birds serve as indicators to monitor the state of biodiversity in Europe.

Already in 2018, the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) and the CNRS were alarmed at a decline to “a level close to ecological disaster”.

Three years later, the MNHN, the French Biodiversity Office (OFB) and the Bird Protection League (LPO) are on the same line. “The STOC draws up a relatively implacable report in terms of the decline of bird populations,” noted Bruno David, president of the museum, during a press conference.

The results are not homogeneous. Forty-three species are in decline, such as the European goldfinch, the turtledove and the window swallow. The species that suffer the most are those living in urban areas (28% fewer birds since 1989) and those living in agricultural areas (-30% since 1989).

“36% of the species assessed are in decline”, detailed Caroline Moussy of the LPO, of which many common species, “35% are stable but it is a relatively fragile stability, and we have 26% of species in increase ”, Generalist or forest species or even emblematic species such as the white stork.

In the forest, the situation is less bad with a drop in numbers of 10% in 30 years.

Destruction of natural habitat and hunting

So who is to blame? To man, of course, and more precisely to human activity. Among which is the construction of wind turbines, but not only and especially not as the main cause: agricultural practices or the destruction of natural habitats are much more highlighted by scientists than wind turbines.

In the city, the disappearance of birds results from “the transformation of buildings and the renovation of facades, which destroy the cavities in which certain species nest”, “ever stronger artificialization”, “the intensification of agriculture near urban areas ”, or pollution due to transport and industrial activities.

Birds also have to deal with global warming, which is leading some species to migrate further north but not quickly enough, and also with poaching or hunting.

France, which will host the World Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in September, authorizes the hunting of birds classified on its Red List of threatened species such as the turtledove (hunting finally suspended by the Council of State for 2020-2021), was surprised Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the LPO. We must put an end to “hunting practices from another age,” added Bruno David, referring to so-called traditional hunts such as glue hunting.

“Hecatomb” in an agricultural environment

In the agricultural sector, “it’s a hecatomb”, denounces Benoit Fontaine, scientist at the MNHN. In question, the intensification of agriculture and the use of pesticides, “in particular neonicotinoids”, large plots and the disappearance of hedges, or even mechanization. The government authorized in 2020 a temporary reintroduction of neonicotinoids, the harmful effect of which on bees is documented.

“The associations are asking for biodiversity to be taken into account in the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)”, the discussions of which are underway, recalled Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, President of the LPO. “The French outlook is not satisfactory,” he continued. “If we do not fundamentally change practices enough, we will not get out of it.”

Negotiations on the next CAP have stumbled over environmental rules intended to “green” European agriculture and will resume in June.

Better placement of wind farms

What about wind turbines? Their responsibility in the disappearance of species of birds is an argument regularly used by detractors of this renewable energy. Latest example in a column by Stépahne Bern which evokes “migratory birds decapitated in the blades of your infernal machines.”

This assertion is far from false. In recent years, the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) and the National Hunting and Wildlife Office (ONCFS) have reported several collisions of birds with the blades, loss of habitat or even behavioral disturbances.

But the defenders of birds are not calling for an outright ban on wind farms: Allain Bougrain-Dubourg has asked the French government, “driven by laudable ambitions in terms of ecological transition”, to exclude wind development zones. classified Natura 2000 areas. “Large-scale planning taking into account biodiversity issues is the most effective measure to select sites and avoid impacts”, according to them.

In this sad report on the state of the biodiversity of our skies, scientists warn against the “false good news” of the increase in populations of certain more adaptable species, such as the wood pigeon or the blue tit: it “ reveals in fact a standardization of wild fauna ”.

“This ordinary biodiversity is disappearing and something must absolutely be done to restore it. If knowledge, expertise, monitoring do not serve to protect behind, it is of no use! ” alerted Pierre Dubreuil, general manager of the OFB.

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