March 20, 2018 / 3:46 PM / a year ago

Birds in rural France wiped out at "dizzying" rate

FILE PHOTO: General view of the countryside in the zoned ZAD (Deferred Development Zone) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, western France, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - Bird populations are collapsing in rural France at a catastrophic rate, according to two studies published on Tuesday which drew a link to the intense use of pesticides in farming.

Various species including the Eurasian skylark and the common whitethroat have seen their numbers decline by a third over the past 15 years, while the number of partridges has slumped by 80 percent.

“Birds in the French countryside are disappearing at a dizzying rate,” the National Centre for Scientific Research and the Natural History Museum of Paris said in a joint statement.

Environment and Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot, a long-time green campaigner, wrote on Twitter that pesticide use must be reduced, pollution curbed and a battle waged against tampering with soil. He gave no concrete suggestions as to how.

The studies noted that the dwindling bird populations followed the intensification of agricultural practices over the last 25 years, pointing to the widespread use of pesticides on monoculture crops, notably corn and wheat.

Pesticides destroy insects and other organisms harmful to cultivated plants and crops, with knock-on effects through the food chain.

The decline has been particularly marked since 2008/2009, the studies said, a period that corresponds with the scrapping of European regulation the obliged farmers to leave at least 10 percent of their land fallow each year.

Reporting by Simon Carraud; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Susan Fenton

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