EU bird protection laws pegged as effective, better than others

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A new joint research by RSPB, BirdLife International and Durham University has found that the European Union’s Birds Directive is one of world’s most effective at providing protection to threatened and that it is better than similar directives from other nations.

The research, which is being published on Tuesday 28 July 2015 in the journal Conservation Letters, reveals that the most consistent single determinant of a species’ fate is whether it is afforded the highest level of protection under the Birds Directive or not. In the language of The Birds Directive this means whether a species is listed under Annex 1 or not.

Researchers found that species listed in Annex 1 (highest level of protection under the Birds Directive) such as Dalmatian pelican, spoonbill, griffon vulture and greater flamingo fare far better in those countries which have been EU members for longer.

In the UK, a number of Annex 1 species are faring better in comparison to species which don’t enjoy the same level of protection. Researchers found that over a 25-year period, the following UK nesting species, listed under Annex 1, increased by the following percentages:

  • avocet (504 per cent);
  • white-tailed eagle (850 per cent);
  • marsh harrier (988 per cent);
  • osprey (462 per cent);
  • bittern (567 per cent);
  • Dartford warbler (663 per cent);
  • red kite (2,054 per cent);
  • nightjar (114 per cent);
  • corncrake (163 per cent); and
  • crane (1,660 per cent).

Dr Fiona Sanderson is an RSPB scientist, working for the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, and lead author of the paper said that species in Annex 1 are more likely to have increasing populations and such results are more apparent in countries that have been EU member states for longer period of time.

For their study, scientists used information from two time periods: the last 30 years; and 12 years, and analysed the population trends separately with the results highlighting the benefits of protection for the Birds Directive.

Using a sophisticated statistical model, the scientists were able to exclude other factors such as changes in climate and habitat, yielding clear evidence that the majority of species prioritised for action under the Birds Directive are responding positively and directly to the level of protection.

“Our research proves that, in an era of unprecedented climate change and habitat loss, those threatened birds protected by the Birds Directive are more likely to prosper”, said Dr Paul Donald who is a senior author of the paper.