Gardeners using pesticides are contributing to the decline of British songbirds, a study has found.
Scientists have urged people to stop “spraying their gardens with poison” in order to halt the decline of birds and adopt wildlife-friendly practices.
The results of the University of Sussex study, which researchers call the first of its kind, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found that gardeners who use pesticides can expect to see fewer birds.
The experiment, which looked at 615 gardens in Britain, found 25% fewer sparrows when glyphosate was used regularly. This is an ingredient found in commonly used brands of herbicides such as Roundup or Gallup.
Slug pellets also appeared to have an impact on bird sightings. In gardens where metaldehyde slug pellets were used, the number of sparrows was reduced by almost 40%.
The researchers drew on data collected by the British Trust for Ornithology, which runs Garden BirdWatch – a citizen science garden bird recording program – and found that 32% of respondents used pesticides in their gardens and that herbicides based on glyphosate constituted 53% of them. applications.
Professor Dave Goulson, of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex, said: “The UK has 22 million gardens, which collectively could be a fantastic haven for wildlife, but not if they are over-manicured and sprayed with poisons. We just don’t need pesticides in our gardens. Many cities around the world are now pesticide free. We should simply ban the use of these poisons in urban areas, following the example of France.”
The Royal Horticultural Society, the UK’s leading horticultural charity, says the use of pesticides and herbicides should be avoided if possible and should be used, if ever, in small and targeted applications.
The research also found that those who adopted wildlife-friendly practices, such as planting native shrubs and flowers or digging a wildlife pond, saw more birds than those who did not.
Cannelle Tassin de Montaigu, PhD researcher in the School of Life Sciences and author of the study, said: “It is encouraging to find that simple measures such as planting native shrubs and trees and creating a pond, along with avoiding the use of pesticides, really do a measurable difference in the number of birds you will see in your garden.”
Gardeners are an important part of the fight against biodiversity loss. The gardens cover an area of approximately 400,000 hectares (988,421 acres), larger than all our national parks. Overall, the UK’s breeding bird population has fallen by 19 million breeding birds since the late 1960s, and sparrow populations have fallen by 70% since the 1970s, with a loss of 10.7 million pairs.