Decline in insects could cause 'catastrophic collapse' of nature

Decline in insects could cause 'catastrophic collapse' of nature

"Insects make up over half the species on Earth, the planet's health depends on them, so it is very worrying that insect life is disappearing much faster than the more obvious birds and mammals - the local extinction rate for insects is eight times higher".

Ultimately, if huge numbers of insects disappear, they will be replaced but it will take a long, long time.

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.

The causes of the dramatic decline include intensive agriculture, pesticides and climate change. "If we don't have insects as moderators of other pest populations, we have insect populations that flare up and ruin crops and make them hard to grow", he said.

"Because insects constitute the world's most abundant and (species-diverse) animal group and provide critical services within ecosystems, such events can not be ignored and should prompt decisive action to avert a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", they wrote.

The study included a wide range of reports to paint the clearest picture of how insect populations are faring worldwide.

"The main factor is the loss of habitat, due to agricultural practices, urbanisation and deforestation", Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, the lead author from the University of Sydney, told BBC News.

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The researchers also note this is the first study of its kind to provide a global picture of insect decline.

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. The number of bees has also been seriously affected.

Indeed, "ecosystem services provided by wild insects have been estimated at $57 billion annually in the U.S.", according to an earlier study. Face climate change head on.

"It is becoming increasingly obvious our planet's ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these awful trends - allowing the slow eradication of insect life to continue is not a rational option".

More research is also badly needed as 99% of the evidence for insect decline comes from Europe and North America with nearly nothing from Africa or South America.

They do everything from providing food for small animals, pollinating 75 percent of the world's crops and replenishing soil, to limiting pest numbers.

The in-depth research found that one third of insect species are already classed as endangered, with 40 percent in nearly all regions around the world expected to face extinction over the next few decades.

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