Evidence has emerged that they may also be implicated in declines of birds, either via direct toxicity of poisoned water sources, prey items and toxic-seed coatings, or via depletion of populations of insect prey.
SongBird Survival commissioned a research project with the University of Sussex funding two PhD students to understand pesticide use and how it may affect our UK songbird species. The use of pesticides and fertilisers has become a staple in the agricultural landscape and has allowed food production to increase as populations have grown, but the impact of these harsh chemicals is not fully understood.
The farmland bird indicator has been used to show the general state of wildlife in the countryside, and of bird declines UK wide for many years. It uses population information from the BTO for 19 different farmland species, many of which are songbirds. One of the reasons for the decline of these farmland birds is theorised to be in part due to pesticide use. The aim of this research project is to:
We are starting to ascertain the catastrophic affects of pesticide use on our insect populations and that this is detrimental to our entire ecosystem.
Nick Mole, from the Pesticide Action Network UK said:
“Since the introduction of the ban on some uses of neonicotinoids in the EU there has not been any dramatic decrease in crop yield as predicted. But what we have seen is continuing evidence from research that the use of neonicotinoids poses an unacceptable risk to all pollinator species. It is vital that the ban on neonicotinoids is extended and strengthened when the decision is taken in 2017.”
This research project is still ongoing, but here are some initial solutions from the project so far:
“Like a lot of children, I wanted to be a vet. But, one day, I saw a documentary about Jane Goodall and her relationship with wild chimpanzees, it completely changed my perspective on nature."
“I thought the only way to pursue my interest in nature and the environment was to follow in the footsteps of (the much more charismatic) Sir David Attenborough."
Professor Goulson Studies the ecology, behavior and conservation of bumblebees, with an interested in pollinators and pollination more generally, and particularly in the sustainable management of pollinators in agro-ecosystems. .
Tassin de Montaigu, C., Goulson, D. (2023) Habitat quality, urbanisation & pesticides influence bird abundance and richness in gardens. Science in the Total Environment. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.161916
Tassin de Montaigu, C., Goulson, D. (2021) Field evidence of UK wild bird exposure to fludioxonil and extrapolation to other pesticides used as seed treatments. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 29: 22151-22162 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-17097-y
Tassin de Montaigu, C., Goulson, D. (2020) Identifying agricultural pesticides that may pose a risk for birds. PeerJ. 8:e9526 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.9526
Gregory, R.D., Noble, D.GH., Custance, J. (2004) The state of play of farmland birds: population trends and conservation status of lowland farmland birds in the United Kingdom. Ibis. 146(s2): 1-13.
Hallman, C.A., Foppen, R.P.B., van Turnhout, C.A.M., de Kroon, H., Jongejans, E. (2014) Declines in insectivorous birds are associated with high neonicotinoid concentrations. Nature. 511: 341-343.
Millot. F., Decors, A., Mastain, O., Quintaine, T., Berny, P., Vey, D., Lasseur, R., Bro, E. (2017) Field evidence of bird poisonings by imidacloprid-treated seeds: a review of incidents reported by the French SAGIR network from 1995 to 2014. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 24: 5469-5485.
Van der Sluijs, J. P. (2020) Insect decline, an emerging global environmental risk. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. 46:39-42
Woodcock, B.A., Bullock, J.M., Shore, R.F., Heard, M.S., Pereira, M.G., Redhead, J., Ridding, L., Dean, H., Sleep, D., Henrys, P., Peyton, J., Hulmes, S., Hulmes, L., Sárospataki, M., Saure, C., Edwards, M., Genersch, E., Knäbe, S., Pywell, R.F. (2017) Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees. Science. 356(6345): 1393-1395
See our publication library for more of our research.
Receive our monthly e-news and regular updates