40% of insect species threatened with extinction

By Lauren Davis
Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

40% of insect species threatened with extinction

A research review into the decline of insect populations has revealed a catastrophic threat exists to 40% of species over the next 100 years, with butterflies, moths, dragonflies, bees, ants and dung beetles most at risk.

Published in the journal Biological Conservation, the study involved a comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe, systematically assessing the underlying drivers of the population declines. It concluded that habitat loss from intensive agriculture alongside agrochemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change are the main drivers behind the current collapse in insect populations.

The review was conducted by Dr Francisco Sanchez-Bayo from the University of Sydney Institute of Agriculture, in collaboration with co-author Dr Kris Wyckhuys from The University of Queensland. They described the declining insect population as “the sixth major extinction event”, noting that, as insects comprise about two-thirds of all terrestrial species on Earth, their loss is profoundly impacting other life forms on Earth — a statement that other scientists are inclined to agree with.

“Insects are absolutely vital to our ecosystems: they are pollinators, pest controllers and waste managers,” said Dr Tanya Latty from the University of Sydney Institute of Agriculture, who was not involved in the study. “They are food to countless birds, reptiles, mammals and fish. Left unchecked, the ongoing loss of insects will impact our daily lives in ways that are almost unimaginable.

“Insects are resilient and it’s not too late to stop and even reverse declines. But we need to care enough to do something.”

So what can we do? According to the study, humanity needs to rethink “current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically based practices”.

Dr Sanchez-Bayo said this is urgently needed to slow or reverse these current trends to “allow the recovering of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide”.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Anatolii

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