Insects fundamental to eco balance, their dying grim news for humans

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Published: February 13, 2019 4:17:44 AM

Insects are fundamental to ecological balance, so their dying out spells grim news for us humans.

Insects are fundamental to ecological balance, so their dying out spells grim news for us humans.

The ubiquity of insects means they are a foundational link in food webs and ecosystems. Published in the journal Biological Conservation, a literature review, that has compiled and analysed 73 existing studies from around the world published over the past 40 years, found that over 40% of insect species could go extinct in the next few decades, with butterflies, bees and dung beetles most affected. Insects’ collective mass—the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined—is dropping by an estimated 2.5% every year. Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, but the review strongly indicates the crisis is global.

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The study may be limited in revealing the full scope of the crisis: scientists aren’t quite sure how many species of insect exist, and the data in this study comes from only developed countries like the US. But, it makes clear that the problem isn’t confined to certain regions, or even to a narrow band of insects. The researchers in the paper outline four broad, global problems leading to insect loss: Habitat destruction; expansion of agricultural pollution, particularly via pesticides, fertilisers, and industrial waste; parasites and pathogens; and climate change. There definitely does need to be a concerted and quick change in the way we go about safeguarding wildlife populations, such as shifting to more ecologically sound food production. But it is clear that, if nothing is done fast enough, the very foundations of our planet’s ecology will be threatened, and with that, humans, too.

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