Widespread loss of insect could cause nature's 'collapse'

Gwen Vasquez
February 14, 2019

The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles.

Moles, hedgehogs, anteaters, lizards, amphibians, most bats, many birds and fish all feed on insects or depend on them for rearing their offspring.

Restoring wilderness areas and a drastic reduction in the use of pesticides and chemical fertiliser are likely the best way to slow the insect loss, they said.

We have recently seen how the insect population simply collapsed in Germany and Puerto Rico, but some studies show that the crisis went global.

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.

Insect populations are declining precipitously worldwide due to pesticide use and other factors, with a potentially "catastrophic" effect on the planet, a study has warned. "If insect species losses can not be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind". The loss of any large insect population will throw an ecosystem into disarray, ultimately affecting every other species, including apex predators like humans.

It reviewed 73 existing studies published around the world in the last 13 years.

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Furthermore, scientist Francisco Sánchez-Bayo states that "if insect species losses can not be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind", while adding that the 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is "shocking".

The researchers found that declines in nearly all regions may lead to the extinction of 40% of insects over the next few decades. Lead author Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo said One-third of insect species are classed as endangered.

The authors are concerned about the impact of insect decline up along the food chain. The number of bees has also been seriously affected.

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

"It is becoming increasingly obvious our planet's ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these awful trends" Matt Shardlow of the United Kingdom advocacy group Buglife tells Matt McGrath at the BBC. Also, climate change plays an important role. They are a food source for many animals, are critical pollinators and recycle nutrients back into the soil.

The in-depth research found that one third of insect species are already classed as endangered, with 40 percent in nearly all regions around the world expected to face extinction over the next few decades.

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