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Pesticides now linked to declining bird populations

“We found an alarming trend between areas where the neonicotinoid is in the surface waters of the Netherlands and how birds respond to that,” Dr. Caspar Hallmann said.
By Brooks Hays   |   July 9, 2014 at 4:28 PM   |   Comments

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NIJMEGEN, Netherlands, July 9 (UPI) -- It's not just bees losing out to pesticides. According to new research out of the Netherlands, an uptick in pesticide use has been linked with the decline of several bird species.

Caspar Hallmann, an ecologist from Radboud University in Nijmegen, and several fellow researchers compared the population data of 15 bird species with the government's measurements of imidacloprid use, a popular chemical in pesticides employed to kill insects on farms and in backyard gardens.

As detailed in the latest issue of the journal Nature, Hallman's study found a correlation between the decline of several species -- including warblers, skylarks and mistle thrushes -- and heightened use of imidacloprid, one of several chemicals used in the neonicotinoid class of pesticides.

Neonicotnoids have previously been linked to the decline of various pollinators like bees and butterflies.

"We found an alarming trend between areas where the neonicotinoid is in the surface waters of the Netherlands and how birds respond to that," Dr Hallmann said.

Pesticide makers like the chemical company Bayer continue to deny the correlations.

"Neonicotinoids have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions," said a spokesman for the company.

"Birds living close to aquatic habitats -- the species that one could expect to be affected most by concentrations of neonicotinoids in surface water -- show no or negligible negative impact."

Strict regulations in Europe have already begun curtailing neonicotinoid use, but the EPA has yet to act despite mounting pressure from environmentalists and conservationists.

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