Birds of cities and fields see their populations collapsing because of human activities in France, alert scientists Monday, asking to act faster and stronger to change agricultural practices or to give up certain hunts.
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 about a decline in “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.
43 species in decline out of 123
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 assessed species are in decline”, detailed Caroline Moussy of the LPO, including 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.
Involved in the cities, “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 urbanized areas”, pollution from transport and industrial activities.
“Hecatomb” in the fields
In an agricultural environment, “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 demand that biodiversity be taken into account in the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)” whose discussions are underway, recalled Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the LPO.
“The French outlook is not satisfactory”, he continued. “If we don’t fundamentally change practices enough, we won’t get out of it. “.
Negotiations on the next CAP have stumbled over environmental rules intended to “Green” European agriculture and will resume in June.
In France, “There is occasionally a good will on the part of farmers to do otherwise”, no change of paradigm, regretted Allain Bougrain-Dubourg.
In the forest, the situation is less bad with a drop in numbers of 10% in 30 years.
Birds also have to deal with global warming, which leads some species to migrate further north, but not quickly enough, 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 end “Hunting practices from another age”, completed Bruno David by evoking so-called traditional hunts such as glue hunting.
Scientists warn against “False good news” the increase in populations of certain more adaptable species, such as the wood pigeon or the blue tit: it “In fact reveals a standardization of wildlife”.
“This ordinary biodiversity is tending to disappear 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.