Thursday, 9 August 2007

EU Birds Directive a clear success

Many of Europe’s most threatened bird species have been helped by the EU Birds Directive, according to a BirdLife International analysis published in the renowned journal Science.

The groundbreaking paper shows that the Birds Directive has clearly helped those species considered to be most at risk, partly through the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

Eurasian Spoonbill, White-tailed Eagle and Spanish Imperial Eagle are prominent examples of this success: without the Birds Directive and the efforts of governments and conservationists to implement it on the ground, these birds would now face a much bleaker future.

Many of Britain's rarest birds have increased by between 50% and 75% thanks to Europe-wide conservation measures, including Bittern, Dartford Warbler and Red Kite.

The research also shows that the populations of threatened birds not only fared better, on average, than other bird species in the European Union, but also that the same species perform better within the EU than in European countries outside it.

Dr Paul Donald, the paper’s senior author from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) said: “For over 25 years, the Birds Directive has helped provide proper protection for those bird species facing the greatest threats. Today we can reveal that this protection has apparently worked.”

The Birds Directive was adopted in 1979 and is now binding law for all EU countries, it requires special conservation measures for a number of listed species. BirdLife hopes this evidence will now boost efforts of governments to comply with the Birds Directive, especially in the new Member States of the EU.

BirdLife warns that insufficient designation and protection of sites, lack of funding for site management and unsustainable agriculture all could reverse the successes of the Birds Directive, perpetuating dramatic declines in Europe’s wildlife. In June, the European Commission started legal action against many Member States after failing to designate enough protected areas for birds. In recent months, Poland has also faced Europe-wide criticism for the construction of an expressway through the pristine Rospuda Valley, a very important site protected under the Birds Directive.

See abstract here

Source: BirdLife International

Photo: Bittern, one of the species helped in Britain, by Steve Young (