Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

The common fast, common snipe and tower are among species that are slipping towards extinction in Europe, according to the continent’s latest “red list” report, which finds that every fifth bird species is now in the danger zone.

From the Azores in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east, birds that have been the cornerstones of European ecosystems are disappearing, according to the BirdLife International analysis, which is based on observations of 544 native bird species. Three species have become extinct regionally in Europe since the last report in 2015 – Pallas’ sand coast, common buttonhole and pine.

In total, 30% of the species assessed show population decline, according to observations from thousands of experts and volunteers working in 54 countries and territories. At European level, 13% of birds are threatened with extinction, and a further 6% are near threatened. “The results are alarming, but we are not surprised,” said Anna Staneva, interim conservation manager at BirdLife Europe and Central Asia.

Key trends echo results from the three previous publications on the Red List in 1994, 2004 and 2015, which show declines remain undiminished. The data is based on millions of observations made since 1980. “We are running out of time, the clock is ticking. We will not see the dramatic changes we are seeing now happen in the next five or 10 years, ”Staneva said.

Pallas' sandstorm (Syrrhaptes paradoxus) by a drinking pool in Kazakhstan.  The species is extinct.
Pallas sand houses (Syrrhaptes paradox) by a drinking pool in Kazakhstan. The species is extinct regionally since the last report in 2015. Photo: AGAMI Photo Agency / Alamy

The results – which were collected in 2019 – are based on the IUCN’s red list categories and criteria used at regional level. They confirm conclusions from the State of Nature in the report from 2013-2018, where only a quarter of the species have a good conservation status. Habitat loss, intensification of agriculture, overexploitation of resources, pollution and unsustainable forestry practices are driving decline, with the climate crisis a growing factor.

“These are big-scale threats, which we call systemic threats, and they’re very much related to the way our society works and how we use resources,” Staneva said. “It is a signal that something is seriously wrong around us. We need to change the way we live, that is the central message of our results. ”

The common fast is near threatened, and towers and common snip are now considered vulnerable due to sharp falls since 2015, when they were listed as least worrying. In order for species to be placed in the category near endangered, the population must have fallen by 25% over three generations. When falls are greater than 30%, they fall into the endangered category.

Staneva said it was a surprise to see such known species in major trouble. “There are probably many things we can all do in our daily lives to change the way we consume natural resources, but of course as active citizens it is probably the most important thing we can do to demand that our politicians take action. “she said.

An adult male pine tree (Emberiza leucocephalos) in Russia.  The species is now extinct in Europe.
An adult male pine tree (Emberiza leucocephalos) in Russia. The species is now extinct in Europe. Photo: tin shop / Alamy

A species is extinct regionally if it has not been observed in Europe over a minimum period of five years. Two species that were thought to be extinct in 2015 – the Caspian plover and the Asian desert singer – have since reappeared in Europe. For more than 50% of the species living on rocky habitats, such as inland cliffs and mountain peaks, there is not enough research to plot exact population trends.

However, that is not all bad news. Restoration of bitters, Azores bullfinch and griffon vultures show targeted efforts against restoration of species can work. Certain birds of prey such as red dragons do better thanks to a ban on pesticides such as DDT and legal protection against persecution.

A few species are currently benefiting from a warmer climate. That black tail, for example, has moved from vulnerable to not threatened since 2015, and this is probably due to rising spring temperatures in Iceland, which hold about 47% of the European population. The 2020 European Breeding Bird Atlas (Ebba2) showed that Mediterranean species such as the European bee-eater and small egret now reach Britain and other areas of northern Europe, mainly due to milder winters.

The little egret in South Downs National Park, Sussex.
A little heron (Egretta garzetta) in South Downs National Park, England. The species now reaches Great Britain and other areas of Northern Europe due to milder winters. Photo: John Lauper / South Downs National Park Authoirty / PA

Martin Harper, regional director for BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, said he hoped the report would serve as a catalyst for more people and organizations to intervene to protect Europe’s birds. “Governments across Europe need to translate the new global ambition to recreate nature into legal goals, backed by the right policies and funding,” he said.

The latest list will help inform on-site conservation actions and national and international environmental policies. Recommendations from the report include the creation of a larger and better managed network of protected areas, in line with the UN goal of protecting 30% of the land by 2030, with significant areas under strict protection, such as “no take” marine protected areas and “no logging”. “Forests.

Carbon-rich landscapes such as peatlands, grasslands and forests that can provide benefits for biodiversity and climate should be prioritized, the report found, and efforts to capture carbon should also help biodiversity. In terms of funding, an important recommendation is to end perverse subsidies that harm nature and switch to an agricultural policy that supports wildlife-friendly agriculture.

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