Friday, 15 November, 2019

Insect decline ‘catastrophic’ for planet

Urban cockroaches might do well amid a collapse of insect populations globally PAT SCALA FAIRFAX MEDIAUrban cockroaches might do well amid a collapse of insect populations globally
Deanna Wagner | 13 February, 2019, 16:31

We actually need them for all of our ecosystems to function properly - they represent food for other creatures, pollinators and they are also recyclers of nutrients.

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

MORE: Pesticide ban could threaten viability of East Anglia's sugar beet industry, farmers told The review, published in the journal Biological Conservation, looked at 73 historical reports on insects from around the world, including studies in the United Kingdom, and found insects ranging from butterflies and bees to dung beetles were among the most affected.

This is the message from a leading biologist following a new scientific review of insect numbers, which suggests there will be "dramatic rates of decline" for 40 per cent of species around this world.

Meanwhile, the planet is said to be undergoing its sixth mass extinction due to the "biological annihilation" of wildlife in recent decades, while the insect population collapses that have already been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico are now thought to be related to a crisis that's global.

Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian the stakes were seriously high.

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Currently, 40% of Earth's insects are at risk of dying out while another third are considered endangered, according to CNN. The wide use of pesticides and fertilizer as well as industrial pollution are also taking massive tolls.

Author of the review, Dr Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, an honorary associate with the Sydney Institute of Agriculture in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said that habitat loss from intensive agriculture alongside agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change are the main drivers behind the collapse in insect populations. The analysis, which looked at 73 studies that assess insect decline, found that butterflies and moths are the worst hit by the trend.

"The conclusion is clear: unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades", they concluded. Lepidoptera, the order of insects that includes butterflies, which are often the canary in the coalmine for ecosystem problems, have declined by 53 percent.

Various insects are also a common food source for larger animals. '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.' Prod Goulson added if huge numbers of insects disappear, they will be replaced - just don't expect it to happen anytime soon.

"The essential role that insects play as food items of many vertebrates is often forgotten", the researchers said.