Gardens are known to be important for wildlife, including songbirds, and the management practices employed can play an important role. Few studies have focused on the role of pesticide applications in private gardens and their potential impact on wildlife, even though they are commonly used. The latest study by Cannelle Tassin de Montaigu and Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex funded by SongBird Survival has found that pesticide use by gardeners is associated with lower abundance of common birds such as house sparrows and robins. The study used data from 615 UK gardens collected by the British Trust for ornithology with their Garden Bird Watch scheme, along with garden management and pesticide use data reported by the gardeners.
We found that 32% of the surveyed gardens applied pesticides and that glyphosate-based herbicides (i.e. Roundup) represented 53% of these applications.
When looking at the potential impact on bird abundance, the study has shown that house sparrow numbers were reduced by 25% in gardens where glyphosate was used and by 39% in gardens applying metaldehyde slug pellets.
House sparrow population is declining fast in the UK and pesticide use could be one of the factors. Pesticides are not fundamentally necessary in our gardens and many towns in the UK and around the world are now pesticide free, let’s do the same in our own gardens!
On a more pleasing note, the study found that the numbers of bird species and the overall abundance of birds recorded was higher in gardens offering wildlife-friendly habitats. Simple measures such as planting hedgerows, shrubs and other trees or creating a pond, along with avoiding the use of pesticide can make a significant difference to the garden birds present in your garden.
Instagram : @cannelle_montaigu
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