Scientists say France is on the verge of “ecological catastrophe” as birds disappear at breathtaking rates
A third of France’s bird population has disappeared in the last 15 years. Dozens of species’ have seen their numbers drop by two-thirds or more.
Biologists say it’s because the pesticides used on wheat and corn have wiped out the bird’s food source – insects.
Other factors include shrinking woodlands, not letting fields lie fallow and especially the rapid expansion of mono-crop fields, find two studies funded by the French government.
“The situation is catastrophic,” said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies.
“Our countryside is in the process of becoming a veritable desert,” he said.
A national bird census indicated the die-off picked up significant pace in 2016 and 2017.
The museum described the pace and extent of the wipe-out as “a level approaching an ecological catastrophe.”
Despite a government plan to cut pesticide use in half by 2020, pesticide sales in France have climbed steadily.
A similar trend is taking place across Europe. Recent research indicates flying insects have declined by 80 percent across the continent.
“If the situation is not yet irreversible, all the actors in the agriculture sector must work together to change their practices,” Fontaine said.