Insects could be extinct within a century, scientists say

Urbanisation and climate change are also having an impact on the world's insect population, the report said.

An overhaul of the agricultural industry is "urgently needed" to "allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide", wrote co-authors from Sydney and Queensland universities.

Ten per cent of known species are already extinct, compared to 1pc of vertebrates, they found. "The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century". Matt Shardlow, the Chief Executive of Buglife, told BBC Radio 4's World at One about the consequences of an insect extinction.

In their report published in Biological Conservation, scientists point the destructive role of intensive agriculture and pollution, mainly caused by the use of pesticides and fertilisers.

But where many die, others are expected to thrive, as "plagues of pests" may arise out of the loss of butterflies, bees, and dung beetles. Researchers said "a considerable proportion" of aquatic fly species had also been lost.

"Agricultural intensification" as well as the use of pesticides and herbicides are the main factors driving this decline, according to the expert.

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. "The introduction of systemic insecticides has been in a big change in the way we do agriculture these days". This could have a potentially "catastrophic" effect on the planet.

Due to the high level off species loss, Earth is considered to have entered into its sixth mass extinction event in half-a-billion years as conservationists warn that more needs to be done to protect our environmental systems.

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