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Diverse, healthy landscape disappearing in EU, including Czechia

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Prague, April 26 (CTK) – The Czech Republic but also other EU countries face a steep decline in the population of birds, insects and other species in agricultural landscape, Czech and foreign experts said at a Prague conference on the protection of biodiversity on Thursday.

The decline in biodiversity is linked to the intensity of farming, Zdenek Vermouzek, head of the Czech Society for Ornithology (CSO), which organised the conference together with the Agriculture Ministry, said.

Ornithologist Vaclav Zamecnik said big farming machines are largely to blame for the bird population decline, together with the use of fertilisers and pesticides, the turning of meadows into ploughed fields, the removal of landscape-forming elements and drainage projects.

As a result of drainage, the population of the northern lapwing in the Vysocina Region, south Moravia, has shrunk from 150 pairs in the 1970s to current eight,” Zamecnik said.

The overall number of birds in the Czech agricultural landscape has fallen by almost 34 percent since 1982.

A similar trend has been registered by experts in the Netherlands, while in Germany, the decline has exceeded 50 percent.

Even sharper is the disappearance of insects, whose population has shrunk by 75 percent in northwest Germany in the past 27 years, Trees Robijns, from BirdLife Europe, said.

Hungarian ornithologist Peter Toth said the agricultural landscape bird population in his homeland dropped by 30 percent from 1999 to 2014, while the sale of pesticides rose three times.

The experts said the offer of subsidies in support of diversity-friendly farming measures may not have the desired effect, since farmers have not shown as strong an interest in it as expected.

For example, the Czech Agriculture Ministry expected farmers to apply for the subsidies for grassing projects on 39,000 hectares, but their real applications involve less than 14,000 of hectares, Zamecnik said.

Czech Deputy Agriculture Minister Pavel Sekac said the European subsidies to the joint agricultural policy will probably be decreased. The Czech Republic has to assess which subsidies are effective and which do not work, he said.

In future, the division of European money designated for agriculture should be more up to the member countries. Ornithologists are afraid that this might harm nature protection.

“Based on our experience, we know that the allocation of money designated in support of wildlife diversity and the tackling of climate-related issues might easily succumb to corruption or political lobbyism,” they wrote in a press release.

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