Decline in insect numbers may have catastrophic effect on planet

13 February, 2019, 16:36 | Author: Myra Gill
  • Macleay's Swallowtail one of the butterflies found around Canberra

Previous studies have looked at smaller areas, with a 2017 study showing 76 percent of flying insects had disappeared from German nature preserves and a study last fall that showed insect populations in pristine rainforest in Puerto Rico have also seen precipitous declines, dropping a factor of 60.

A lot of people don't necessarily appreciate insects, mosquitoes, bugs and bees, especially if they are allergic to bites or stings.

The warning was issued in a global review of insect declines, in which the authors called for a dramatic rethinking of agricultural practices and better strategies for cleaning polluted waters.

A research review into the decline of insect populations has revealed a catastrophic threat exists to 40 percent of species over the next 100 years, with butterflies, moths, dragonflies, bees, ants and dung beetles most at risk.

Over 40% of global insect species are threatened with extinction, scientists said in a new report, marking an unprecedented loss of biodiversity. Additionally, when insects die, they return nutrients to the earth; insects are at the bottom of the food chain, with many small animals relying on insects as food; and some insects help with pest control, according to a National Geographicinterview with author David MacNeal.


Even though the study pointed out that intensive agriculture and urbanization are the main drivers of major insect losses, other factors, including climate change, pathogens, and synthetic pesticide pollution, could be contributing to this catastrophic bug issue. The loss of any large insect population will throw an ecosystem into disarray, ultimately affecting every other species, including apex predators like humans.

"Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades", the report said.

"Second is the increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture worldwide and contamination with chemical pollutants of all kinds". The heavy use of pesticides, climate change and invasive species were also pinpointed as significant causes. "In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none", study co-author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, an environmental biologist at the University of Sydney, Australia, told The Guardian.

They maintain soil structure and fertility, pollinate plants and control insect and plant pests. Based on the findings of the report, Statista has drawn up this handy - and, frankly, worrying - infographic of insects and their percentage decline over the past decade.

Insects play a profoundly important role in Earth's ecosystems.

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