Gardening is a beloved pastime for many, but it turns out that our green-fingered activities may be having an adverse effect on the UK’s songbird population. A recent study by the University of Sussex has revealed that gardeners who use pesticides are contributing to the decline of British songbirds.

The research, which surveyed 615 gardens across the UK, found that the use of pesticides such as glyphosate-based herbicides and metaldehyde slug pellets can have a significant impact on bird numbers. 25% fewer house sparrows were recorded in gardens where glyphosate was used regularly, and the numbers dropped by almost 40% when metaldehyde slug pellets were used.

The authors of the study are now urging gardeners to stop “spraying their gardens with poison” and instead adopt wildlife-friendly practices such as planting native shrubs and flowers, or digging a wildlife pond. The research showed that those who did so saw more birds than those who did not, suggesting that these measures can make a measurable difference to the number of birds in our gardens.

Cannelle Tassin de Montaigu, a PhD researcher within the school of life sciences and an author of the study, said: “It’s encouraging to find that simple measures, such as planting native shrubs and trees and creating a pond, together with avoiding the use of pesticides, really make a measurable difference to the number of birds you will see in your garden.”

Gardens cover an area of about 400,000 hectares (988,421 acres) in the UK, bigger than all of our national parks. It’s clear that gardeners have an important role to play in the fight against biodiversity decline. By choosing to forgo pesticides and instead create a wildlife-friendly garden, we can all make a positive contribution to the health of our nation’s songbird population.