Insect decline ‘catastrophic’ for planet

Macleay's Swallowtail one of the butterflies found around Canberra

They found that there are 41% of insects that are in decline, while 31% of insect species have encountered threatening declination, according to the numbers set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Authors of the report warned: "Our work reveals dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40 percent of the world's insect species over the next few decades".

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 pace of insect decline appears to be the same in tropical and temperate climates, though there is far more data from North America and Europe than the rest of the world. The study takes a look at 73 historical reports which have hinted at the death of insects around the world, finding that the mass of all insects on Earth is declining by 2.5% per year.

Only a few species of insects - mainly in the tropics - are thought to have suffered due to climate change, while some in northern climes have expanded their range as temperatures warm. As for pollinators, we have already documented the decline in butterflies and bees, so essential to our agricultural needs.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of wildlife charity Buglife, said: "It's not just about bees, or even about pollination and feeding ourselves, the declines also include dung beetles that recycle waste and insects like dragonflies that start life in rivers and ponds". "In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none", study co-author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, an environmental biologist at the University of Sydney, Australia, told The Guardian.

The researchers said the intensification of agriculture over the past six decades was "the root cause of the problem" and that the widespread use of pesticides was having a major impact. As Phys.org explained, insects are responsible for pollinating 75 percent of the 115 most important food crops worldwide.

They suggested overhauling existing agricultural methods, "in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices". The researchers also note this is the first study of its kind to provide a global picture of insect decline.

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