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Title: Intensive Farming Threatens Important Bird Habitats
Source: Copyright 2000, Reuters News Service
Date: March 29, 2000
By: Emma Ducasse
LONDON (Reuters) - The expansion of intensive agriculture is threatening more than one third of Europe's most important bird habitats, Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) warned Wednesday.
The findings were published by Birdlife International, an alliance of conservation organizations, in a study called Important Bird Areas in Europe.
It lists 3,619 sites considered critical for bird conservation, spanning Europe's 51 countries from Ireland to Turkey.
``Across Europe, current forms of intensive agriculture are causing serious population declines in around one third of the continent's 515 species of birds, including skylarks, corncrakes, great bustards, red-breasted geese and red-back shrikes,'' said Graham Wynne, the RSPB's chief executive.
``Across the continent, farming activities take place in nearly two thirds of all the important bird areas listed, and many of these sites owe their importance for conservation and their scenic beauty, to non-intensive forms of agriculture.'' Birdlife identified 295 sites of international significance, including seabird colonies, heathlands, woodlands in Britain, 391 in Spain and 285 in Germany.
The population of great bustards is declining in most EU countries and in the last 50 years they have become extinct in Poland, former Yugoslavia and Austria.
It also found that nearly half of Europe's important bird areas were seriously threatened and that a wide range of species was dependent on these areas for their survival.
Approximately 1,300 such areas are affected by agriculture. Other threats include water extraction and mineral extraction.
``Intensive agriculture is the single most important thing that affects species and which also has wide ranging effects on bird habitats,'' said Mike Evans, researcher on threatened birds of Birdlife International.
``It reduces the diversity of landscape, hedges and ditches and as a result it is no longer possible for open country species to nest, like skylarks, partridges and lapwings.''
A spokesperson for Margaret Wallastrom, European Commissioner for the Environment, told Reuters: ``The Wild Bird EU directive is the oldest piece of conservation legislation and we are doing a lot to make sure that this, along with the Habitats directive, are followed. We are even ready to take legal action against countries if necessary.''