Farming and Birds in Europe: Common Agricultural Policy and Its Implications for Bird Conservation

Farming is the single largest land-use in Europe. It accounted for nearly one-half of the total land area of the European Union and is consequently home to many common and widespread birds, as well as those adapted to particular agricultural landscapes. However, until relatively recently, the conservation importance of farmlands went unrecognized. Furthermore, much of the special value of farmlands has been lost or degraded as a result of unprecedented rate of development of new and aggressive land management techniques. Many of the species of farmland birds are now in sharp decline, or threatened with total extinction, as a result of the sorts of agricultural intensification encouraged by the Common Agricultural Policy. Across the EU, wherever traditional low-intensity farming systems remain, nature conservation value also persists, although under increasing threat. Where intensification has been rapid much value has already been lost and wildlife of all kinds have suffered. Grassland conservation to crops, drainage and irrigation, chemical aplications, new crops and crop pattern changes, loss of marginal habitats and changes in stocking rates have all played their part. In addition, the concentration on areas of high production potential has often lead to the abandonment of less productive land where traditional low-intensity management was beneficial to wildlife. This book highlights all aspects of the problems associated wth farming and bird conservation. Discussion ranges from the socio-political pressures on farm policy to the effects of management on a variety of bird species throughout the more and less developed parts of the European Union. Potential changes in the Common Agricultural Policy are considerd in terms of how they have been and can be tailored to benefit birds and wildlife through such initiatives as the new Agri-Environment Regulation. The text addresses the need for policy efforts to focus on both the concerns of conservation and sensible farm management. It stresses the importance in seeing that a conclusion is reached, both for the needs of the farmer and consumer and for the birds and wildlife of the European countryside.