The decline of farmland birds in Spain is strongly associated to the loss of fallowland

Oct 25, 2020

Farmland bird populations have strongly declined across Europe over the last decades due to agriculture intensification, despite successive reforms of EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In parallel, CAP has led to a reduction of fallow land, a critical habitat for biodiversity in agroecosystems. Fallow land in Spain, a country harboring the largest European populations of many endangered farmland birds, has decreased by 1.1 million ha in 15 years. The significant positive relationship between yearly change rates of the Spanish Farmland and Cereal Bird Indices (FBI and CBI) and fallow surface change highlights the adequacy of fallow land cover as an indicator of the state of farmland bird communities at country level. Moreover, the strong and positive association between the reduction in abundance of the fallow specialist little bustard and fallow surface suggests a potential causal link between these two factors. These results highlight the need for a new CAP that guarantees the maintenance of fallow land in European agroecosystems if farmland bird populations are to be conserved.

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