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Continuous population declines for specialist farmland birds 1987-2014 in Denmark indicates no halt in biodiversity loss in agricultural habitats


The 2020 EU biodiversity strategy aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, but this requires effective monitoring to determine whether these aims are achieved. Common bird monitoring continuously assesses changes in the avian community, providing a powerful tool for monitoring temporal changes in the abundance and distribution of these upper trophic level consumers. Two-thirds of Denmark’s land area is intensively farmed, so agricultural habitats make a major contribution to Danish biodiversity. We looked for changes in abundance amongst farmland birds in Denmark during 1987–2014 to test for reductions in declines and to predict whether the 2020-target can be expected to be achieved. Sixteen specialist farmland species were those showing the most rapid declines amongst 102 common breeding species in Denmark. Of these, those species nesting on the ground showed significant long-term declines, which was not the case for those that nest elsewhere, i.e. in hedgerows, trees and buildings. There was no evidence to suggest that these trends were attributable to widespread declines in long-distance migrant species (as reported elsewhere), which may be affected by conditions at other times in the annual cycle. We therefore conclude that continued declines in specialist farmland breeding bird species are due to contemporary agricultural changes within Denmark and urge habitat- and species-specific analysis to identify the core causes of these changes and halt the declines.

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Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
  • EISSN: 1474-0001
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