Date: May 16, 2019
Source: University of Helsinki
The abundance of bird species living in agricultural environments has decreased both in Finland and elsewhere in Europe. Attempts to rectify the situation have been made with the help of agri-environment-climate subsidies. They are granted to agricultural producers by the EU for implementing measures that are presumed to be beneficial to the environment. There is a range of such subsidies, but their potential effects on biodiversity at national scales have been seldom comprehensively investigated.
As indicated by a recent study conducted in Finland, the proximity of organic animal farms increased the numbers of birds in agricultural environments. In contrast, most of the other environmental subsidies only had a minor impact on bird numbers.
"Agricultural subsidies constitute a substantial portion of the EU's budget, and are the most significant form of funding for improving natural conditions. Funding should be allocated to measures that benefit biodiversity the most," says Irina Herzon, a researcher at the University of Helsinki.
On all organic farms, production animals have access to pastures. The majority of organic animal farms in Finland are cattle farms where cattle are able to graze during summer months. Thanks to their complex vegetation and presence of manure, pastureland is favoured by many insects, thus also providing more food for birds. In fact, the study showed that organic animal farms were particularly beneficial to insectivore birds, such as swallows and starlings.