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In France, a third of the birds have disappeared in the countryside. In Burgundy, scientists have been comparing the consequences of different agricultural practices for 30 years.
Jérôme Moreau is a researcher at the University of Burgundy. Every morning, he captures birds in nets, and observes their behavior. “The more a bird moves, the more active it will be, the more it will defend itself when we approach, and the more energy it has to invest in it”, he explains. They then undergo a comprehensive health examination, during which they are banded, measured and weighed. These tests are carried out on more than a thousand birds, which nest near cultivated fields, some in organic farming, others in conventional farming.
Less abundant birds
“For all the species that we capture, when we look at these behavior marks, we realize that the birds that we capture in hedgerows surrounded by conventional agriculture are much less energetic, struggle less, sing less, cry less (…)“, observes the researcher. Birds are also less abundant. On average, populations have reduced by a third in 15 years. They no longer have enough insects to feed on the agricultural plains.
Vincent Bretagnolle, researcher at the CNRS, studies the impacts of the use of pesticides and fertilizers on living organisms. “Herbicides kill the flora, so all [l]Wildflower species are eliminated from conventional fields, and insecticides eliminate insects”he explains.