Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has led to an increased food production in Western Europe, resulting in a more intensive use of the available grasslands. At the same time the total amount of grassland decreased. As a result the numbers of meadow birds declined very rapidly. Since 1990, Black-tailed Godwit numbers dropped by 60%, Northern Lapwing by 55%, Eurasian Oystercatcher by 70% and Common Redshank by 33%. Meadow bird protection in The Netherlands consists of agri-environmental schemes (AES, mainly nest protection and postponed mowing), voluntary nest protection, and reserves, in this order of importance in terms of hectares. In 2011, the total area with conservation measures was about 375,000 ha. The total costs for AES schemes in that year were 47 million Euro. However, AES have so far proved to be ineffective in The Netherlands. Many AES are applied in unsuitable areas. In addition, nest protection is an important measure, but it has its drawbacks: predation rates may increase due to visits to nests, and chick survival is not improved by this measure. To improve the effectiveness of conservation measures a new approach is presented, ‘Meadow bird landscapes’. These areas house high densities of meadow birds and have the right conditions like high water levels and openness. Without these conditions conservation measures will not stop the decline. However, future developments may hamper the effectiveness of this new approach. The targets of the new CAP reform have already been adjusted to a lower level, nature conservation will be decentralised in 2015 and in addition the milk quota will be ceased at the same year. Therefore it is questionable whether the new AES approach in The Netherlands will compensate for these future developments.
Meadow bird conservation in The Netherlands – lessons from the past and future developments
Roodbergen M., Teunissen W.A.
Vogelwelt 135: 29-34