Insect populations worldwide are rapidly declining due to the use of pesticides and other factors, causing a potentially "catastrophic" effect on the planet, according to a study.
More than 40% of insect species could die out in the next few years According to the report published in the journal Biological Conservation "Global Decline of Entomofauna: An Overview of Its Drivers", the report has been published in decades.
The insect biomass decreases by an impressive 2.5% per year, suggesting widespread extinction within a year, the report said.
In addition to the 40% that are threatened with extinction, one-third of the species are endangered – numbers that could cause the planet's ecosystems to collapse with devastating effects on life on Earth.
The report, co-authored by scientists from the Universities of Sydney and Queensland and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences, dealt with dozens of reports of the decline in insects that were released over the past three decades and examined the reasons for the falling numbers to create an alarming global picture.
Editing genes could eliminate mosquitoes, but is it a good idea?
His lead author, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, called the study the first truly global study of the problem.
While the focus in the past has been on the decline in vertebrate biodiversity, this study highlighted the importance of insect life for the interconnected ecosystems and food web. Insects make up about 70% of all animal species.
The effects of extinction on insects would be "catastrophic" according to the report, since insects were "the structural and functional basis of many of the world" ecosystems since their rise … nearly 400 million years ago. "
The main causes of the decline included" habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanization, "pollution from pesticides and fertilizers, and biological factors such as" pathogens and introduced species "and climate change.
While a plethora of specialty insects filling a specific ecological niche and common insects declined, a small group of adaptable insects grew in numbers – but by no means enough to be arrested.
Small Creatures Who Rule The World
Don Sands, Entomologist and Retired Commonwealth Organization for Scientific and Industrial Research Anization Scientist said he "totally" agrees that the "bottom-up" effects of insect loss are severe are.
"If we do not have insects as moderators of other pest populations, we have insect populations that flare up and ruin crops and make them difficult to grow," he said.
He added that the ecosystem at this level "must be in balance. This is the lowest layer, and if we do not address all of our lives, this could be immeasurably influenced.
"(insects are) the little creatures that rule the world," he said.
NCSU study: Sunflower pollen has medicinal, protective effects on bees
Reports of the decline of insects are not new: researchers have warned about the phenomenon and its effects for years.
A study found last year that flying insect populations in German nature reserves have decreased by more than 75% over the course of a 27-year study, meaning that extinction also takes place outside areas affected by human activity.
"These are not agricultural areas, but places that are supposed to preserve biodiversity. Nevertheless, we see the insects slip out of our hands, "said the co-author of the report, Caspar Hallman.
Birds eat birds
Species that rely on insects as food source – and the predators in the food chain eating these species – are likely to suffer from these decreases. The pollination of crops as well as wild plants would be affected as well as the nutrient cycle in the soil.
In fact, "ecosystem services provided by wild insects in the US" have been reported in a previous study.
Around 80% of wild plants use insects to pollinate, while 60% of birds rely on insects as food source, the study said. Sands said that an immediate threat of insect decay is the loss of insect-eating birds and the danger that larger birds eat insects to eat each other.
In his native Australia, birds are turning around who no longer have insect nourishment, "he said, adding that this is likely to be a global phenomenon.
Radical Action Required
The authors of the report called for radical and immediate action
"Because insects are the world's most abundant and (species-diverse) animal group, they provide critical services within ecosystems. Such events can not be ignored and should take determined action to prevent a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems. "
They proposed revising existing agricultural practices," notably a serious reduction in pesticide use and its substitution through more sustainable, environmentally-oriented practices. "
" The conclusion is clear: If we do not change our mode of production In a few decades insects as a whole will go the path of extinction, "they concluded.