30/10/2015
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Farmland birds increase but two key species decline

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Northern Lapwing has continued its global decline despite some breeding success on RSPB reserves. Photo: Alastair Rae (commons.wikimedia.org).
Northern Lapwing has continued its global decline despite some breeding success on RSPB reserves. Photo: Alastair Rae (commons.wikimedia.org).
The government's Farmland Bird Indicator has revealed a two per cent increase in farmland bird numbers last year, though Red List species are still in decline.

After yesterday's announcement that four British bird species have been added to the new International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) global Red List, the government's Farmland Bird Indicator has revealed a two per cent increase in farmland bird numbers during 2014. However, European Turtle Dove and Northern Lapwing are still undergoing a potential extinction, despite their position as farmland specialists on the indicator.

The RSPB has said it welcomes this increase, and is committed to continuing its hard work with others to turn this small annual upturn into a positive long-term trend, particularly for those species most at risk.

“The inclusion of [European] Turtle Dove and [Northern] Lapwing on the global Red List means that we need to make sure this year’s increase in the overall farmland bird indicator is more than statistical noise, and that we keep focused on the species which are most at risk,” said Abi Bunker, the RSPB’s Head of Policy and Advocacy. “Bringing birds and other wildlife back to our countryside will need this year’s increase to be matched with another next year and the year after, if it is to be anything more than a blip. Central to the future prospects of these species will be the currently under-funded agri-environment schemes that have become so fundamental to terrestrial conservation in the UK.”

The launches of the new schemes in Britain have been challenging, but the role that these have played in saving species such as Cirl Bunting, Corncrake and Stone-curlew should provide us with hope that they can reverse the fortunes of these two icons of the British countryside. The RSPB is now urging DEFRA in England to address the issues they have encountered with Countryside Stewardship in 2015.

Abi Bunker continued: “The fundamental design of the scheme is sound, but DEFRA needs to learn the lessons from this year and improve [its] implementation, including enhancing [the] focus on biodiversity, fixing their broken IT system and ensuring Natural England has the resources to make the scheme a success.”
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