A naturalist, Patrice Costa, warns of the disappearance of birds and insects from our countryside, while large predators are protected. A decline in small local fauna, to be stopped urgently.
He saw firsthand “the decline of life in the world”. Patrice Costa, vice-president of the European Institute of Ecology and former top reporter in charge of the environment, has traveled a lot and observed the planet’s fauna. And, for him, “we realize that there are big problems.”
Our birds are disappearing, “especially in rural areas”
The alarm bell he is sounding today does not concern great apes or polar bears. But, very close to us, our local fauna which is in great danger. Mainly the birds of the fields, whose number “is in free fall”. While few people seem to be moved by it.
For Patrice Costa, “what is happening now” is more than worrying: “the small countryside fauna, mainly the small birds, it’s incredible, the speed at which it f… the camp” he laments. And to evoke this terrible and recent silence, which every attentive walker is able to notice. Because too often, in the middle of nature, in these places where we heard ordinary, banal birds singing, like the skylark, “Now we can’t hear anything.”
The same observation is relayed by animal photographers and videographers, keen observers of local biodiversity. Many say that in recent years, birds have become increasingly rare.
Birds and insects, similarly threatened
According to the naturalist, the explanation for this carnage is simple: “The problem is that the bugs are gone.” And he himself has no trouble listing those responsible: “the use of pesticides and phytosanitary products and intensive agriculture with openfields”these immense fields all in one piece, in monoculture. But he points just as much “the artificialization of land, the spread of urban planning and the multiplication of ZACs (concerted development zones) on the outskirts of cities.”
We’re not screwed to keep our little country birds.
“We have easy criticism” to castigate countries on other continents that destroy biodiversity, continues Patrice Costa. “But at home, we’re not crazy about keeping the little birds in the countryside.”
And to see that the same ravages continue underground: “If we hit the ground of an openfield with a spade” subjected for years to chemical treatments, “and if you look for living organisms there, you don’t find any.” Not to mention completely concrete floors, “under which there is nothing”.
Only “field rats” do well. Rodents, voles, field mice and other small mammals “know how to adapt better” to the evolution of their natural environment, and find in one way or another food and shelter.
City birds are happier
Curiously, birds and insects seem to do much better in urban settings. This recent phenomenon is easily explained: the laws “on the abandonment of pesticides and phytosanitary products” resulted in a new development of insects. “We leave plots with crazy vegetation, and inevitably, it attracts insects and butterflies again.” And by ricochet, “the birds that go with it.”
Large predators are doing well
Another paradox noted by Patrice Costa: for several decades, large predators, long threatened, have taken their ease again. The reasons are known: “natural reintroduction or recolonization.” A long time “massacred by humans because considered competitive”today they regain citizenship. “It’s the return of the savage.”
Alongside wolves and lynx, the most publicized, “we also see the return of large raptors that had more or less disappeared.” Examples among others: the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, the largest nocturnal bird of prey. Or the White-tailed Eagle, “or even the Osprey, which had completely disappeared, while there are again around a hundred pairs in France.”
It’s the return of the savage.
Again, the explanation is easy: “They are coming back, following the protective role of the Raptors Act 1972. But also thanks to the realization that they are useful to farmers, since they hunt down pests.”
Thus, summarizes the naturalist, “the evolution of the top of the food chain” is positive. While the more modest fauna is seriously threatened. And what the “keen”it is “that kind of ditch” between the destruction of “rural, everyday biodiversity” and the rebound of “certain emblematic species”.
How to reverse the trend?
The example of the renaissance of predators shows that with well-adapted laws and initiatives, nothing is really inevitable. In Alsace, the story of the white stork is also telling: there were only nine pairs left at the beginning of the 1970s, compared to several hundred today – almost too many. Again, obviously, all the protective measures “have borne fruit.”
We must act quickly, very quickly.
But to save our birds of the fields and the woods, our insects and our earthworms, so ordinary, so modest and yet so indispensable, “you have to act quickly, very quickly” insists Patrice Costa. He himself says he is frightened by the speed of their decline: “It scares me” he admits. “And to catch him, it will be hard.”
Any initiative, even very local, is good to take. Like reviewing our way of laying out our country gardens, in order to encourage the return of native insects, following the example of the Hymenoptera garden created a few years ago in Obersteinbach (Bas-Rhin). But to really reverse the trend, we need a global awareness. Emergency.
Because for Patrice Costa, there are not thirty-six solutions: we must stop concrete and, above all, “we really need to change our agricultural paradigms” and come back “to a more respectful agriculture.” A large-scale change of course that he is calling for. But that he fears to see arriving too late. While the destruction of local wildlife threatens the entire natural balance of which we are a part. Hence this cry from the naturalist: “Do we really realize that we are squandering our life insurance?”
Patrice Costa will participate this Saturday, May 29 at 12:55 p.m. in the special program of France 3 Grand Est: “Acting together for nature”, live from the Sainte-Croix park, as well as in the “Biodiversity talks”, four days of reflection around biodiversity, which will end on Sunday 30 May.