Posted on: 10 Jun 2014
New scientific evidence from Eastern Europe confirms that the legal protection of birds works, as rates of decline have been halved.
A recent study focusing on 10 Eastern European countries has shown that the rate of decline of protected bird species was approximately halved after the onset of protection. The study, published in the leading journal Biological Conservation, was led by scientists from the Czech Republic and the German Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, and involved experts from across Europe, including BirdLife International.
Many European bird species have declined radically over the last century from exploitation, land-use changes, climate change and the influence of invasive species. In response, policy makers have introduced legislation to protect species by limiting their exploitation and the destruction of their habitats. Since applying such legislation has financial and other consequences, it is important to know whether the protection efforts are really beneficial to the protected species.
The study focused on Eastern Europe, using data on 306 bird species with population trends in both the 1970–1990 and 1990–2000 time periods (previous studies have already shown the benefits of protecting birds in Western Europe and the United States). BirdLife also contributed data on the national population trends of bird species from two comprehensive assessments across Europe, covering the periods 1970-1990 and 1990-2000. By chance, the division between these two periods coincided with the collapse of communism and the establishment of modern environmental legislation in many countries in Eastern Europe, so trends in the earlier period (‘before’ protection) could be compared with those in the later period (‘after’ protection).