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Next Talk 18 Sept: “CAP Reform and Irish Farmland Birds – New Thinking”

Following an extremely interesting and detailed presentation last night by Dr. James King from Inland Fisheries Ireland, MulkearLIFE’s series of free Illustrated Talks will continue next Tuesday evening, 18th September 2012 @ 8pm. “CAP Reform and Irish Farmland Birds – New Thinking” is the title of the talk to be given by Dr. Alex Copland, from BirdWatch Ireland. BirdWatch Ireland is a project supporter of MulkearLIFE. It is the largest independent conservation organisation in Ireland with a focus on the conservation and protection of Ireland’s birds and their habitats.

Farmland birds form part of our natural heritage (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchuir)

Farmland birds, like Ireland’s native fresh water fish species, form a crucial part of our natural heritage. Farmland birds are enjoyed by people in their everyday lives and add greatly to local biodiversity. More importantly, in a similar manner to Atlantic Salmon in our streams and rivers, they are key indicators of the health of our farmlands and the wider environment of the countryside.

Birds depend on farmland habitats (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchuir)

Unfortunately, population figures for 145 common and widespread bird species show populations across Europe at their lowest levels since records began. Amongst those species covered, farmland birds are the most threatened group, with 20 out of 36 species in decline, and overall numbers at an all-time low, down by 48% since 1980. Some of the species that have declined the most over the last three decades across Europe include Grey Partridge (-82%), Skylark (-46%), Linnet (-62%) and Corn Bunting (-66%). In Ireland the situation is no better, with many farmland bird populations continuing to decline. The most recent data recorded the lowest ever levels for Yellowhammer, while iconic farmland birds such as Skylark and Kestrel have shown significant, long-term declines since the survey started.

Skylarks are under severe pressure (Image: Michael Finn / BirdWatch Ireland)

In late 2011, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Simon Coveney TD, launched BirdWatch Ireland’s Action Plan for Lowland Farmland Birds. Speaking at the launch the Minister expressed his disappointment that “farmland birds have experienced some of the largest population declines of any group of birds in Ireland”. The Minister added that “the Corn Bunting, a specialised lowland farmland bird, had sadly become extinct in Ireland, and data shows that the Kestrel and Skylark have shown a significant decline between 1998 and 2008”. The Minister commented on the significant role that agriculture has to play in the protection of these birds and that “lowland farmland birds depend on habitats such as tillage, grasslands and associated features such as hedgerows, ditches, etc. for their survival”.

High Nature Value farmland in the upper Newport River (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchuir)

Dr. Alex Copland, Senior Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, will give an update on the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform negotiations. He will outline his thoughts on the type of agri-environment measures, similar to the measures currently being implemented by MulkearLIFE with the support of local farmers across the Mulkear catchment, to halt the drastic declines in farmland bird populations. He will outline how “New Thinking” and agri-environmental proposals could benefit bird populations, biodiversity and the environment and most importantly farmers on whom these species and habitats depend.

At an EU level, European Commission President, José Manual Barroso, has indicated a commitment to re-orientate the CAP towards delivering public goods, including the protection of our biodiversity: "The future CAP will contain a greener and more equitably distributed first pillar and a second pillar that is more focussed on competitiveness and innovation, climate change and the environment."

Thus it is clear that targeted agri-environment schemes, supporting farming systems on High Nature Value farmland, will form an element of the “New Thinking”. Dr. Copland’s talk should therefore be of particular interest to local farmers, birdwatchers and conservationists.

Grazing on High Nature Value farmland (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchuir)

MulkearLIFE’s / Inland Fisheries Ireland’s September series of illustrated talks take place over four Tuesdays in September. The venue for all talks is the Inland Fisheries Ireland Office, Dock Road, Limerick, which is a 2-minute drive from Limerick City Centre, with ample free parking in front of the building. Talks will commence at 8.00pm and there is free admission to all talks. Click Here For Directions.

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Mulkear LIFE, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Ashbourne Business Park, Dock Road, Limerick, Ireland
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