A report by the European Union (EU) has revealed that the number of bird species protected by union sanctions has significantly increased, but some habitats for these animals are in danger largely because of intensive farming.

The "State of Nature in the EU" report for the years 2007 to 2012 stated that while 52 percent of all wild birds have been assessed with secure population status, about 17 percent of them are considered threatened, including several species of birds of prey.

An estimated 15 percent of the species, such as the skylark, were also discovered to be in decline or near threatened.

The report highlighted the discrepancy between the conservation statuses among the birds studied. Around 23 percent of the birds had a favorable status while an alarming 60 percent of them had an unfavorable one.

Bird habitats are also a cause for concern among conservationists as 77 percent of the habitats were found to be unfavorable for the birds, while only 16 percent of these environments could be considered favorable.

According to wildlife experts from the European Environment Agency (EEA), natural habitats, such as wetlands, grasslands and dunes, are being threatened by abusive farm practices. These included fertilization, pesticides and over-grazing.

Karmenu Vella, European Union environment commissioner, said the EEA's findings showed how improving vulnerable ecosystems can be made effective, but he believes there are still challenges that need to be resolved.

Wild birds protected under the EU conservation action include white-headed ducks and bearded vultures. The populations of these two species have increased dramatically in previous years, as mentioned in the EU report.

For conservation groups, the "State of Nature" report underscored the importance of having vigorous protection laws from the EU.

They pointed out that union policymakers should focus on protecting the environment and not on Euroskeptic arguments raised against the involvement of Brussels on the issue.

"A thriving natural world is crucial for everybody's health and wellbeing, so the EU would be foolish to undermine nature protections in the name of cutting red tape," Robbie Blake, a campaigner from the biodiversity group Friends of the Earth Europe, said.

Photo: Chris Jimenez | Flickr 

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