The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, warned the Biological Conservation global scientific review. According to the scientists, more than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Over the past thirty years, the total mass of insects on the planet has been falling by 2.5% a year.
At this rate, the scientists are concerned insects could vanish within a century. “It is very rapid.
In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none,” Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the University of Sydney, Australia, told the Guardian. He collected the data with Kris Wyckhuys from China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing. Most of the studies analysed were done in western Europe and the United States.
98 % of insects vanished from Porto Rico over the past 35 years
Insects are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say. They pollinate plants, recycle nutrients and serve as food for other creatures. Their extinction “will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” said Francisco Sánchez
Bayo. One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,”he said.
Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years. But the review strongly indicates the crisis is global. Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit as are bees. Only half of the bumblebee species found in Oklahoma in the US in 1949 were present in 2013 The number of honeybee colonies in the US was 6 million in 1947, but 3.5 million have been lost since.
Intensive agriculture is the culprit
“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” wrote the researchers who blame intensive agriculture as the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides such as neonicotinoids and fipronil. Urbanisation and climate change are also significant factors.
According to M. Sanchez-Bayo, the demise of insects appears to have started at the dawn of the 20th century, accelerated during the 1950s and 1960s and reached “alarming proportions” over the last two decades.
Source: Le Monde