Research looks at impact of sawfly health on birds

Sawflies are hardly the most popular form of wildlife among growers, but their decline in intensively farmed areas could be harming populations of farmland birds, researchers at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee have claimed.

Scientists studied the genetic diversity and population structure of sawfly larvae at a number of sites in Scotland and concluded that the high number of diploid males, which are usually sterile, indicated low levels of genetic diversity and inbreeding.

This could hit overall numbers, so impacting significantly on birds such as the grey partridge, which is seen as an indicator of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape.

Professor Nick Sotherton of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, which were partners on the study, said: "We know that sawflies are susceptible to intensive farming practices and once numbers have been reduced, it can take many years for populations to recover. This research throws an interesting light on the fate of these beneficial insects when they reach low densities."

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