Huge Drop In Insect Populations Might Spell Catastrophe For People As Nicely

Clay Curtis
February 13, 2019

If you took fourth grade science you know why insects are important, but just as a refresher: Insects are one of the very first links in the food chain, providing sustenance for countless species of birds, rodents, reptiles, fish, and other animal groups.

In a November New York Times report about a possible "insect apocalypse", scientists were asked to imagine a world with no insects.

The study included a wide range of reports to paint the clearest picture of how insect populations are faring worldwide. The culprits? Agricultural practices that rely on pesticides, the loss of habitats to growing cities, biological change such as the introduction of new species to habitats, and of course climate change.

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.

Meanwhile, the planet is said to be undergoing its sixth mass extinction due to the "biological annihilation" of wildlife in recent decades, while the insect population collapses that have already been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico are now thought to be related to a crisis that's global.

Many insects that are beneficial to other animals and humans are declining up to eight times faster than other mammals or birds. This new study, however, looks at 73 studies about insect decline from around the globe.

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"The conclusion is clear: unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades", they concluded.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of wildlife charity Buglife, added: "It is gravely sobering to see this collation of evidence that demonstrates the pitiful state of the world's insect populations". Pollution, particularly the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers, is also a major contributor to the dwindling number of insects around the world.

Because of the importance of insects to natural systems and other wildlife, "such events can not be ignored and should prompt decisive action to avert a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", the scientists warned.

"In 10 years, you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left, and in 100 years you will have none", Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, one of the study's co-authors, told The Guardian.

Professor Goulson encouraged people to make more insect-friendly gardens and to stop using pesticides and buy organic food.

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