EU pegs agriculture as one of the pressures on wildlife

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In its The State of Nature in the European Union report for the years 2007-2012, the European Commission has expressed concern over habitats of wild birds noting that ‘agriculture’ and human-induced ‘modifications of natural conditions’ are the greatest problems.

The report notes that whilst just over half (52 per cent) of all birds assessed have a secure population status, 15 per cent of species are near threatened, declining or depleted, and the startling thing is that this list includes once common birds, such as the skylark. 17 per cent of species are threatened, the report notes.

The report further notes that just under a quarter (23 per cent) have a favourable conservation status, whilst 60 per cent have an unfavourable status. Habitats are also in a similarly poor condition, with just 16 per cent of habitat assessments favourable and 77 per cent unfavourable.

The European Commission notes that the main pressures and threats to species and their habitats are agriculture and the modification of natural conditions. The report further notes that particular pressures and threats include hydrological conditions like reduction of habitat connectivity and water abstraction.

As far as marine ecosystems go, they are under pressure and threat from living resources including fishing activities, modification of nature conditions, and pollution.

In the report, the EU notes that grasslands, wetlands and dune habitats are a particular concern and they are directly under threat from agricultural practices such as over-grazing, fertilization and pesticides.

The report also highlights positive impacts of EU funded projects in improving habitats and species. Using case studies, the EU highlights positive impacts on Eastern Imperial Eagle, European Brown Bear, Calcareous grasslands and Boreal Baltic coastal meadows.

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: “While it shows a mixed picture overall, it clearly demonstrates that efforts to improve vulnerable ecosystems can be highly effective. It also underlines the scale of the challenges that remain. We have to rise to those challenges, as the health of our nature is linked to the health of Europe’s people, and to our economy.”

Campaign groups, citing the report, say that this shows shows the need for vigorous EU law to protect the environment and policy-makers should not be distracted by Euroskeptic arguments against Brussels interference.