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Ornithological Conservation

 

Birds are perhaps the most visible and best appreciated part of the wild fauna with which we share the world. Many people derive great pleasure, fulfilment and inspiration from watching and listening to birds, both in the wider countryside as well as in their own neighbourhoods and gardens. But birds have more than simply an aesthetic value; they also occupy a key place in the overall biodiversity.

Birds are very useful biological indicators. Not only do birds live in all eco-systems, birds also occupy a high level in the food chain, and can thus help highlight environmental changes that might be occurring at lower trophic levels. Changes in bird populations can provide a very useful indication of broader environmental change. When birds start disappearing, it suggests that something is wrong with the environment as a whole and that urgent action is needed. 

According to the latest ornithological assessment of the status and population trend of all 524 bird species occurring in Europe, published by Birdlife International in 2004, some 226 species of birds (or 43% of the European avifauna) have an Unfavourable Conservation Status in Europe. What is particular worrying, is that these figures show that the number of species of birds that are in trouble in Europe have increased by 5% during the last 10 years. The status of birds in Europe is worsening!

Changes in agricultural practices pose some of the greatest threats to birds, accounting for 42% of Europe's threatened bird species. These changes can take a variety of forms including agricultural intensification or specialisation and, in the case of regions such as the Rodopi (Rhodope) Mountains, loss of traditional agricultural habitats such as hay meadows and orchards due to agricultural abandonment. 

The Rodopi (Rhodope) Mountains are nowadays rightly ackowledged as one of the most important regions in Europe for birds. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Rodopi (Rhodope) Mountains and adjacent parts of Aegean Thrace, including a remarkable 37 species of raptors (birds of prey). Not surprisingly, therefore, the region now incorporates numerous Important Bird Areas (IBAs) including 11 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Bulgaria and 13 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Greece. Together these help to preserve a large number of birds that have been declared Species of European Conservation Concern (SPEC).