Total changes in abundance and biomass of birds considered by the PECBMS. Each point represents the totalled abundance estimates of 144 species from 1980 to 2009. Lines represent the fitted values from a general additive model (red – degrees of freedom = 10, blue – degrees of freedom = 3). Linear regression reveals a significant decrease in both abundance (β = −9.89 × 106, t = −6.127, P < 0.0001) and biomass (β = −133.51, t = −2.074, P = 0.0474) over the 30 year study period. Box and whisker plots represent the variation generated by randomly altering each abundance estimate ± 1 & 20% for 100 iterations. Graph: Inger, et al., 2014

LONDON, 3 November 2014 (AFP) – Europe has an estimated 421 million fewer birds than three decades ago, and current treatment of the environment is unsustainable for many common species, a study released on Monday said.

The population crash is related to modern farming methods and the loss and damage of habitats, according to the study published in science journal Ecology Letters.

"This is a warning from birds throughout Europe. It is clear that the way we are managing the environment is unsustainable for many of our most familiar species," said Richard Gregory of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which co-led the study.

"The conservation and legal protection of all birds and their habitats in tandem are essential to reverse declines."

The study found that about 90 percent of the decline occurred in the most common bird species, including grey partridges, skylarks, sparrows and starlings. [more]

Europe has 421 million fewer birds than 30 years ago


ABSTRACT: Biodiversity is undergoing unprecedented global decline. Efforts to slow this rate have focused foremost on rarer species, which are at most risk of extinction. Less interest has been paid to more common species, despite their greater importance in terms of ecosystem function and service provision. How rates of decline are partitioned between common and less abundant species remains unclear. Using a 30-year data set of 144 bird species, we examined Europe-wide trends in avian abundance and biomass. Overall, avian abundance and biomass are both declining with most of this decline being attributed to more common species, while less abundant species showed an overall increase in both abundance and biomass. If overall avian declines are mainly due to reductions in a small number of common species, conservation efforts targeted at rarer species must be better matched with efforts to increase overall bird numbers, if ecological impacts of birds are to be maintained.

Common European birds are declining rapidly while less abundant species' numbers are rising

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