EU law 'has had huge positive impact on threatened bird species'

EU law 'has had huge positive impact on threatened bird species'

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An EU law has a major positive impact on the populations of Europe's most threatened bird species. 

New research from the RSPB, BirdLife International and Durham University has revealed species that are afforded the highest level of protection under the EU Bird's Directive are far more likely to have increasing numbers. 

This law bans activities that directly threaten birds, such as stealing eggs, the destruction of nests and the deliberate capture or killing of birds. Species are afforded differing levels of protection depending on the severity of the threats they face. 

Birds that are listed under Annex 1 of the directive are given the most protection possible and the new research shows this has proved extremely effective. Using a sophisticated statistical model, scientists assessed population trends while excluding factors such as climate and habitat change.

In the UK alone, a number of nesting species have seen their numbers grow significantly over the past 25 years.

For example, the Marsh Harrier population has increased by close to 1,000 per cent, while 850 per cent growth has been recorded for White-Tailed Eagles. Numbers of both the Bittern and Dartford Warbler have risen by more than 500 per cent, with the Osprey (462 per cent) not far behind. 

Other success stories include the Nightjar and Corncrake, with population growth of 114 per cent and 163 per cent recorded respectively. 

However, the biggest population increases have been seen in the Common Crane (1,660 per cent) and the Red Kite, in which a staggering 2,054 per cent rise has occurred over the past 25 years.

The RSPB's conservation director Martin Harper stated: "These laws are delivering for Europe’s nature and its citizens.

"With such strong evidence of the effectiveness of Europe’s nature laws, coupled with record levels of public support across Europe, the European Commission has a strong mandate to ensure these laws are maintained."

The research also revealed the impact of the Birds Directive is more significant in countries that have been EU members for longer.

Non-UK species that have benefited from the law include the Dalmatian Pelican, Spoonbill, Griffon Vulture and Greater Flamingo.