Insects Could Die Out In The Next 100 Years

by: Lucy Jones | 5 months ago | News

Monarch butterflies have declined by more than 90% in the past 20 years. Image source.

Insects are dying at a rapid rate and, if things keep going the way they're going, they could disappear within the next 100 years. A new study has warned that declining insect populations could lead to the “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”. Published in the Biological Conservation journal, the report analysed findings from 73 existing insect decline studies and identified these disturbing global trends:

More than 40% of insect species are declining.
A third of insect species are endangered.
The rate of extinction of insects is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles.
The total global mass of insects is falling by 2.5% a year.
Insects could die out within a century.

“The trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting life forms on our planet," the report reads.

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades. The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

Insects are an important food source for birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. They also play a crucial role in sustaining ecosystems by pollinating plants, keeping soil healthy and eating pests. But agriculture and global warming are killing them en masse.

“The main cause of the decline is agricultural intensification,” Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, a University of Sydney researcher who worked on the report, told The Guardian. “That means the elimination of all trees and shrubs that normally surround the fields, so there are plain, bare fields that are treated with synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.”

These pesticides make their way into the areas surrounding farms too. A study conducted in Germany found that 75% of insect losses took place in protected areas of forest.

Insect extinction is a global issue. This review looked at cases from western Europe, America, US, Australia, China, Brazil and South Africa. The researchers found that moths and butterflies are dying more quickly than most other insects. In the UK, butterfly species dropped by 58% in agricultural areas between 2000 and 2009. Around 3.5 million bee colonies have also died out in the USA over the last 70 years.

“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” said Sánchez-Bayo.

Other experts and conservationist agreed that we need to act now to reverse the effects of global warning.

“It is gravely sobering to see this collation of evidence that demonstrates the pitiful state of the world’s insect populations," said Matt Shardlow, a representative from the UK charity Buglife. "It is increasingly obvious that the planet’s ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these dreadful trends."

Professor Paul Ehrlich from the University of Stanford said that researchers need to address the causes of global warming too.

“It is extraordinary to have gone through all those studies and analysed them as well as they have,” he said. “But they don’t mention that it is human overpopulation and overconsumption that is driving all the things, including climate change.”

You can read the insect extinction study in full here.

Via The Guardian.

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