Massive Insect Decline May Have "Catastrophic" Impact on Environment

13 February, 2019, 16:34 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Macleay's Swallowtail one of the butterflies found around Canberra

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

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 new paper, which was published in the journal Biological Conservation, takes a broader look at overall insect populations. Sánchez-Bayo and co-author Kris Wyckhuys of the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing traced the beginning of the decline to the dawn of the 20th century, noting that it subsequently gathered pace in the 1950s and 1960s.

A leading Norfolk farming conservationist said farmers were already at the forefront of finding ways to reverse the decline of insects and wildlife - but all parts of society needed to work together to find solutions rather than "naming and shaming" individual sectors. Researchers found that the rate of decline of insects around the world is eight times faster than that of birds, reptiles, and mammals.

They also pointed to the growing use of pollutants, mainly synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, as well as the impact of invasive species and climate change.

Many other studies in recent years have shown that individual species of insects, such as bees, have suffered huge declines, particularly in developed economies.

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"Unless we change our way of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades", concluded the peer-reviewed study, which is set for publication in April.

Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney said, '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. As Phys.org explained, insects are responsible for pollinating 75 percent of the 115 most important food crops worldwide.

"It's quite plausible that we might end up with plagues of small numbers of pest insects, but we will lose all the wonderful ones that we want".

He added that while the overall message was alarming, there were things that people could do, such as making their gardens more insect friendly, not using pesticides and buying organic food.

According to The Guardian, insects overall are decreasing in population by 2.5 percent a year, which means they could completely disappear within 100 years.

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