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Common Pesticide Responsible For Declining Bird Populations

Update Date: Jul 10, 2014 07:49 AM EDT
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Areas with high concentrations of imidacloprid - a widely used insecticide - had fewer birds, according to a new analysis. 

Imidacloprid is an insect neurotoxin in the neonictinoid family. The insecticide is widely used to kill insects on farms and in gardens. Recently a research linked it to disappearing bee population. 

Researchers analyzed population data for 15 bird species in Netherlands. 

However, researchers are not sure exactly what causes the bird decline. Imidacloprid is toxic to birds only in large doses so possibly its effect on bird decline is indirect. Researchers added that because the pesticide kills off insects, it disrupts the food chain. 

"Bird populations in farmland areas may have having trouble finding food, so they may leave those areas," said Ruud Foppen, one of the paper's authors, according to Slate. 

"[Birds] need to have a lot of insect prey for their young," added Foppen, which could lead to a cascading effect. "It affects food; then by food, their reproduction rate; then by their reproduction rate, the population trends."

After the research linked insecticide to declining bee population, the European Commission placed restrictions on the use of  imidacloprid until at least 2015. 

"Let's use this time to figure out what's going on," says Hans de Kroon, another co-author. "Something must be done," he says.

The analysis is published in journal Nature

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