Huge Drop In Insect Populations Might Spell Catastrophe For People As Nicely

Nellie Chapman
February 13, 2019

Around the world, populations of insects are declining and experts warned that they could disappear completely within a century. Insects outnumber humans by a huge margin.

The warning was issued in a global review of insect declines, in which the authors called for a dramatic rethinking of agricultural practices and better strategies for cleaning polluted waters. "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".

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.

"Fast-breeding pest insects will probably thrive because of the warmer conditions, because many of their natural enemies, which breed more slowly, will disappear", Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex, not involved in the study, tells the BBC's McGrath.

Intensive agriculture is being blamed for the plummeting numbers, particularly the heavy use of pesticides.

The scientists' review of 73 previous studies indicates it is a worldwide crisis.

The new study shows 41 percent of insect species have seen steep declines in the past decade, with similar drops forecast for the near future.

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The study found that declines in nearly all regions may end in the extinction of as many as 40 per cent of insects.

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. Sands said an immediate danger of the insect decline was the loss of insectivorous birds, and the risk of larger birds turning from eating insects to eating each other.In his native Australia, "birds that are running out of insect food are turning on each other", [the report's co-author, Caspar Hallman] said, adding that this is likely a global phenomenon'.

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, it says.

"That means the elimination of all trees and shrubs that normally surround the fields, so there are plain, bare fields that are treated with synthetic fertilisers and pesticides", University of Sydney's Francisco Sánchez-Bayo told The Guardian.

While the focus in the past has been on the decline in vertebrate animal biodiversity, this study stressed the importance of insect life on interconnected ecosystems and the food chain.

Insects play a profoundly important role in Earth's ecosystems.

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