The importance of PARTRIDGE with the current decline in farmland birds across Europe

10 April 2018 - Published by Paul Stephens
The results from recent bird-monitoring studies carried out by France’s National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) and the National Centre for Scientific Research reveal that the country’s bird populations have declined by almost a third in 15 years.

Benoît Fontaine of the MNHN, co-author of one of the new studies, said that EU agri-environment schemes were “obviously not” reversing bird declines, but farmers were not to blame and it was possible to produce food while preserving wildlife. According to a second French study, which examined 160 areas of typical arable plains in central France, eight in ten partridges have vanished over 23 years.

The news from France does not come as too much of a surprise. According to the European Bird Census Council, the abundance of farmland birds in 28 European countries has fallen by 55%, demonstrating the urgent need for a new approach to halt the decline of some of our best known and loved farmland birds such as the skylark, yellowhammer and grey partridge.

Shocking though it may be, the recent news from France is just further evidence of what is already widely known: farmland birds keep disappearing across Europe despite the EU’s ambition to reverse the decline, and the current Common Agricultural Policy has not helped to reverse these declines at national levels. Far less known is that this needn’t be the case at all.

Across Europe, management solutions that help to restore farmland wildlife at local levels have been developed and successfully tested for a wide range of farmland species. What has been missing to date are projects that pull all this information from different regions across the continent together.

The NSR Interreg PARTRIDGE project fills this urgent gap. Using a bottom-up approach at ten demonstration sites across England, Scotland, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, the project works with more than 100 local farmers, hunters, volunteer groups, other stakeholders, and government agencies to demonstrate how to increase farmland biodiversity by up to 30%. This is achieved in as little as four years by implementing 7% of high-quality habitat tailored towards the grey partridge.

Only in its second year, the project has already hosted more than 500 visitors at its demonstration sites, including high-profile decision-makers such as the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, the Danish and Belgian environment ministers, hundreds of local and regional farmers, farmer union representatives, NGOs, and members of the public.

Already, new habitat measures such as beetle banks have been introduced to the Netherlands and Belgium based on expertise from the UK, and improvements to current national agri-environment options within the North Sea countries have been made based on research from Germany.

If you wish to visit one of our demonstration sites, please click here to get in touch with our regional demonstration site coordinators.

Written by Francis Buner, GWCT