DEFRA announced on April 3rd that biodiversity throughout the UK is continuing to decline, when measured according to 18 key government indicators.

DEFRA’s latest figures showed that 65% of farmland is covered by agri-environment schemes.

In 2008 there were more than 8 million hectares involved in schemes, compared with 6 million in 2005.

The GWCT’s Dr Roger Draycott explained this is still not enough to reverse the decline of some farmland birds.

“Despite many more landowners signing up to agri-environment schemes, many bird species are still in decline. A good example is the grey partridge, which has suffered an 85% decline over the past 40 years and, according to the British Trust for Ornithology figures, it is still showing a decline. DEFRA’s last bird population survey in 2008 showed that some farmland species, such as the grey partridge, turtle dove and linnet, have declined to their lowest level on record.”

“However, where targeted management has been applied to specific species at individual farms, birds have benefited. Farmers and landowners who contribute to the Partridge Count Scheme, which is run by the GWCT, and carry out habitat management alongside predation control and feeding have, in many cases, been successful in halting the decline and increasing their numbers compared with a continuing decline in the wider countryside.”

An RSPB spokesman commented that these latest figures highlight just how much of a challenge the government faces if it is to halt biodiversity loss in the UK.

“Our farmland birds continue to decline apace and wildlife-rich habitats aren’t being restored quickly enough. It’s a harsh reality and one that the government must address by setting itself more ambitious targets for protecting and restoring wildlife as we head into the next decade. Doing so will also help wildlife adapt to the effects of climate change.”

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