Intensive farming hits European animal habitats

29th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The warning came with the publication of what the commission said was the most comprehensive survey of EU biodiversity ever undertaken, looking at 1182 species in 216 habitats from 2001 to 2006.

Brussels -- Intensive farming is damaging the habitats of hundreds of species of European animals, the European Commission warned earlier this month, and urged EU member states to redouble their efforts to protect them.

The warning came with the publication of what the commission said was the most comprehensive survey of EU biodiversity ever undertaken, looking at 1182 species in 216 habitats from 2001 to 2006.

"Only a small proportion of these vulnerable habitats and species have achieved good conservation status and member states will need to strengthen their efforts if this situation is to improve," a commission statement said.

The report found that the condition of grasslands, wetlands and coastal habitats were particularly poor, with only seven percent of those checked deemed to be up to scratch.

The problem was blamed on intensive agriculture, the abandonment of land and poor land management. The survey also said that wetlands and mountain glacier regions were being damaged by global warming.

Last month, the commission said it planned to take France to Europe's highest court for failing to protect the great hamster of Alsace, a species threatened with extinction.

The rodent requires around 240,000 hectares of protected land to thrive, but the species has been shoe-horned into under 3,500 hectares in eastern France mainly due to farming, reducing its food supply.

Once considered a pest for farmers in the region of Alsace -- where around 80 percent of land is used to grow corn -- the hamster has been protected since 1993 and is considered one of the most threatened mammals in Europe.

Its numbers have plummeted from over a thousand in 2001 to fewer than 200 in 2007, and have continued to decline over the last two years.

The commission survey was not all negative. It found that species like the wolf, Eurasian lynx, beaver and otter were beginning to return to their traditional habitats.

AFP/Expatica

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