A new study has found that insecticide use in the U.S. is linked more closely to the steep, widespread declines of grassland birds than the land use changes typically perceived as the culprits. For decades, grassland bird populations have been plummeting, and changes in agricultural practices - such as conversion of grasslands to row crops and more frequent haying - are cited as the primary reason for these trends.
But toxicologists Pierre Mineau and Melanie Whiteside make the case that grassland bird declines are also the work of more insidious impacts from insecticide applications. The title of the paper says it all: "Pesticide acute toxicity is a better correlate of U.S. grassland bird declines than agricultural intensification."
VCE's Grasslands Program is addressing threats that take place throughout the lifespan of grassland birds. In South America where some grassland birds overwinter, pesticide use is a known concern. With this study, pesticides will now be brought into the forefront of discussions about conservation solutions in North America.
Read paper about the contribution of pesticides to declines in grassland bird populations.