Global 'catastrophic collapse' of insects threatening pollination and food chains

Pauline Gross
February 13, 2019

It goes without saying that insects are essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, with respect to their roles as pollinators, recyclers of nutrients, as well as being the main source of food for other species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

In a November New York Times report about a possible "insect apocalypse", scientists were asked to imagine a world with no insects. The global scientific review, which studied 73 historical reports of insect population declines, said that "habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture" is the main culprit of this ecological dilemma.

The earth is at the start of a sixth mass extinction, with dramatic losses of larger animals, but more than 40 percent of insect species are declining and a third of them are endangered, reported The Guardian.

"It is very rapid".

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

The researchers found that declines in nearly all regions may lead to the extinction of 40% of insects over the next few decades.

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As the Australian researcher Francisco Sánchez-Bayo told the newspaper: "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".

But according to the new review, the proportion of insects in decline is now twice as high as that of vertebrates and the insect extinction rate is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. "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".

Insects are also being hit by biological factors, such as pathogens and introduced species, and by climate change, where rising temperatures could affect the range of places where they can live. The researchers also note this is the first study of its kind to provide a global picture of insect decline.

They suggested overhauling existing agricultural methods, "in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices".

Almost half of all insect species worldwide are in rapid decline and a third could disappear altogether, according to a study warning of dire consequences for crop pollination and natural food chains. As Phys.org explained, insects are responsible for pollinating 75 percent of the 115 most important food crops worldwide.

Other reports by GizPress

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