Roughly 40% of the world’s insect species are in decline, a new study said.
The rapid shrinking of insect populations is also a sign that the planet is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction.
But the loss of insects is a dire threat — one that could trigger a “catastrophic collapse of Earth’s ecosystems,” a new study said.
The research, the first global review of its kind, looked at 73 historical reports on insect declines around the world and found the total mass of all insects on the planets is decreasing by 2.5% per year.
Insects are going extinct 8 times faster than mammals, birds, and reptilesSanchez-Bayo and his coauthors focused their analysis on insects in European and North American countries.
They estimated that 41% of insect species are in decline, 31% are threatened (according to criteria set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature), and 10% are going locally extinct.
“As insects comprise about two thirds of all terrestrial species on Earth, the above trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting life forms on our planet,” the authors wrote.
Read more: Scientists say we’re witnessing the planet’s sixth mass extinction — and ‘biological annihilation’ is the latest sign’Catastrophic consequences for … the survival of mankind’The study emphasized that insects are “essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems” as food sources, crop pollinators, pest controllers, and nutrient recyclers in soil.
“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” Sanchez-Bayo told The Guardian.
Substantial declines in insect populations therefore threaten the food, timber, and fiber production that humanity’s survival depends on, according to Timothy Schowalter, a professor of entomology at Louisiana State University.
“Overall, the systematic, widespread and often superfluous use of pesticides in agricultural and pasture land over the past 60 years has negatively impacted most organisms, from insects to birds and bats,” the authors of the new study wrote.
To address the steep decline in insect populations, Sanchez-Bayo and his coauthors are pushing for initiatives to restore insect habitats and cut down the amount of chemicals used in agricultural practices.
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