June 16, 2015It’s not often that you see a male ruff (Philomachus pugnax) displaying in the Netherlands. Actual breeding pairs decreased with 99,9% in the Netherlands since 1950, making witnessing this display all the more special. Unfortunately, such dramatic declines characterise many populations of traditional ‘meadow bird’ species in the Netherlands, like the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa, pictured here chasing away the male ruff), Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) and northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus).
Due to the presence of river deltas and meadows on reclaimed polders the Netherlands has been a popular stamping ground for waders (called shorebirds in North America). 90% of the North-Western European population of black-tailed godwits breeds in the Netherlands and 40% of the European population of the Eurasian oystercatcher. Hence, these Dutch meadows are also important on a European scale. Economic reforms and innovations in farming techniques meant that biodiversity on meadows – like elsewhere in Europe – has been changing for more than a century. The decline in the Dutch ruff population for example is caused by the combined effects of lower water levels, heavy use of manure and an intensive mowing regime. And it doesn’t only effect birds, but the whole make-up like flowering plants, pollinators etc.
Our economy and demand for produce means maximum efficient use of the available land, with little regard for other critters. Luckily, there is good news too… with plenty of success stories of either government or consumer sponsored measures carried out by commercial dairy farmers. This line of thinking means: if we think it’s worth protecting, we pay for it either from our taxes or when you are buying the final produce. Sustainable practise and intrinsic values aside, is this the only way forward to avoid “completely flat, levelled green cultural deserts” (philosopher Pouwel Slurink, Volkskrant 3 june 2015)?