Massive Insect Decline Could Have ‘Catastrophic’ Environmental Impact, Study Says

Urban cockroaches might do well amid a collapse of insect populations globally

PAT SCALA FAIRFAX MEDIAUrban cockroaches might do well amid a collapse of insect populations globally

Sands said an immediate danger of the insect decline was the loss of insectivorous birds, and the risk of larger birds turning from eating insects to eating each other.In his native Australia, "birds that are running out of insect food are turning on each other", [the report's co-author, Caspar Hallman] said, adding that this is likely a global phenomenon'. "The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least, as insects are at the structural and functional base of numerous world's ecosystems since their rise at the end of the Devonian period, nearly 400 million years ago".

Insect biomass is declining by a staggering 2.5% a year, a rate that indicates widespread extinctions within a century, the report found.

The report, published by Elsevier's journal Biological Conservation and circulated by ScienceDirect.com, asserts that the "biodiversity of insects is threatened worldwide".

'It is very rapid.

"From our compilation of published scientific reports, we estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline (41 percent) to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction (10 percent) eight times higher, confirming previous findings".

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The researchers found that declines in nearly all regions may lead to the extinction of 40% of insects over the next few decades.

Review author Francisco Sanchez-Bayo told The Guardian that if insect species loss can not be halted, it will also have catastrophic consequences for the survival of mankind. Lepidoptera, the order of insects that includes butterflies, which are often the canary in the coalmine for ecosystem problems, have declined by 53 percent.

"There is not a single cause, but the evidence is clear, to halt this crisis we must urgently reverse habitat fragmentation, prevent and mitigate climate change, clean up polluted waters and replace pesticide dependency with more sustainable, ecologically-sensitive farming".

But where many die, others are expected to thrive, as "plagues of pests" may arise out of the loss of butterflies, bees, and dung beetles. Even with this shocking rate of insect losses, they are, by far, the most abundant and varied of animals - outweighing the Earth's human population by 17 times over. The heavy use of pesticides, climate change and invasive species were also pinpointed as significant causes.

Professor Goulson encouraged people to make more insect-friendly gardens and to stop using pesticides and buy organic food.

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