Neonicotinoid seed treatments and farmland birds

Worldwide, the debate surrounding the environmental safety of neonicotinoid (NN) insecticides continues. Whilst the EU banned the use of these compounds in 2018, many other countries continue using them on a large number of agricultural crops. To date, the majority of neonicotinoid avian research has been laboratory-based and the impacts of neonicotinoid exposure on farmland bird communities remains poorly understood. To fill this knowledge gap, PhD student Rosie Lennon (University of York), who is co-supervised by PBMS principle investigator Richard Shore, investigated the effects of neonicotinoid seed treatments on farmland birds in the UK.  

Twenty-one years of NN usage data (Pesticide Usage Survey, Fera Science Ltd.) was spatially matched to bird abundance data (BTO Breeding Bird Survey) and the analysis estimated the  change in population for each species per unit application of NN applied as seed treatments. The study concluded that dietary exposure to NN seed treatments has had no consistent effect on farmland bird populations. However, populations of skylark Alauda arvensis, red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa and house sparrow Passer domesticus showed significant negative associations with NN use.

The full publication (Lennon et al., 2019. Using long-term datasets to assess the impacts of neonicotinoids on farmland bird populations in England.  PLoS ONE 14(10): e0223093) can be accessed at

Yellowhammer © Rosie Lennon

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