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Stackyard News Mar 06

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Optimism for woodland and farmland birds as some species increase

Populations of Tree Sparrows, Whitethroats and Green Woodpeckers are increasing according to statistics published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) today.

The biodiversity indicators show that populations of farmland and woodland birds in England, previously in decline, appear to have stabilised, while there is cause for optimism as some species are increasing.

Biodiversity Minister, Jim Knight, said:

“I am greatly encouraged by this new data which shows that many of our much loved species are stable or on the increase although we acknowledge that not all the news is positive.

“We will continue to investigate the reasons for decline in certain species in order to take action to stabilise numbers in a hope that they will increase in the future.

“Trends in wild bird populations are a complex statistic - with a mixture of some species increasing and others declining. Equally varied is the range of solutions required to address the problems our wild birds face.

“Defra’s entry level environmental stewardship scheme will go a long way to contributing to the recovery of many species, however it is important that we do not become complacent. We must continue to seek ways in which we can enhance, improve and nurture biodiversity to ensure a healthy environment for the future.

“Our wild birds are a much loved part of our culture. The membership of wildlife conservation organisations is up, so too are visitor numbers to nature reserves - reflecting the ever growing enthusiasm shown by people for our wild places and biodiversity. The many volunteers who contributed their time and energy in collecting data for these indicators are a perfect example of this enthusiasm.”

Defra is committed to updating evidence as it becomes available with a full 2006 report covering all 46 biodiversity indicators due at the end of the year.

The statistics published today compliment a report on the population of woodland birds, also published today, by BTO, RSPB, Forestry Commission and Defra.


1. Defra today published updates of 13 of the indicators used to measure the progress of the England Biodiversity Strategy.

2. The indicators were first published in December 2003 as Measuring Progress: baseline assessment.

3. Defra aims to publish updates and improvements to these indicators when new data becomes available, which varies depending on the indicator. The data underlying the indicators are gathered on different cycles; some are gathered annually, or even monthly; others are updated on a three year, or longer, cycle. Several of the indicators relating to the assessment of populations of wild birds are now more robust due to changes in the way the data is collected or analysed.

4. Of the 13 updated indicators, three are showing overall positive results with the remaining 10 showing no change or uncertain trend due to conflicting results within the indicator.

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