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Insect numbers in precipitous decline could have 'catastrophic' consequences, warns study



More than 40% of insect species could be extinct in the next few decades, according to the report "Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers" published in the journal Biological Conservation.

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

. – numbers that could cause the collapse of the planet's ecosystems with a devastating impact on Earth's life.

The report, co-authored by scientists from the Sydney and Queensland universities and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences, looked at dozens of existing reports on the decline of insects published over the past three decades, and examined the reasons behind the falling numbers it produces the alarming global picture.

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 examination of the issue.

While the focus has been on the decline in vertebrate animal biodiversity, this study has highlighted the importance of insect life on interconnected ecosystems and the food chain.

 A bumblebee lands on a flower as workers of the Federation for Nature Protection German inspect an urban garden in Berlin, Germany. The Repercussions of Insect Extinction would be "catastrophic to say the least," according to the report, as insects have been at "the structural and functional basis of many of the world's ecosystems since their rise ... nearly 400 million years ago. "</p>
<p> Key causes of decline include" habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanization, "pollution, especially from pesticides and fertilizers, as well as biological factors such as "pathogens and introduced species" and climate change. </p>
<p> While a large number of special insects, which fill a specific ecological niche, and general insects were declining, oup of adaptable insects were seeing their numbers rise ̵<div class=
1; but nowhere near enough to arrest the decline, the report found.

 A light plane sprays of pesticides on a hill in the Negev Desert near the Egyptian border.

Don Sands, an entomologist and retired Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization scientist, said he "agreed" that the "bottom-up" effects of insect loss were serious.

"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

"(Insects are) the small creatures that run the world," he said.

Reports of the insect

Last year, one study found that flying insect populations in German nature reserves declined by more than 75% over the duration of 27 years of study , meaning that the die-off is happening eve n beyond areas affected by human activity.

"These are not agricultural areas, these are locations meant to preserve biodiversity, but we still see the insects slipping out of our hands," said this report's co-author, Caspar Hallman.

Birds eating birds

Species that rely on insects as their food source – and the predators up the food chain that eat these species – were likely to suffer from these declines, according to scientists.

Indeed, "ecosystem services provided by wild insects have been estimated at $ 57 billion annually in the US," according to a previous study

Some 80% of wild plants use insects for pollination while 60% of birds rely on insects as a food source, according to the study. 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," he said, adding that this is probably a global phenomenon. [196590028] Bees swarm in the sky as Palestinian workers remove frames from bees to collect honeycombs in Gaza Strip ” data-src-mini=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190211113206-insect-decline-study-1-small-169.jpg” data-src-xsmall=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190211113206-insect-decline-study-1-medium-plus-169.jpg” data-src-small=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190211113206-insect-decline-study-1-large-169.jpg” data-src-medium=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190211113206-insect-decline-study-1-exlarge-169.jpg” data-src-large=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190211113206-insect-decline-study-1-super-169.jpg” data-src-full16x9=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190211113206-insect-decline-study-1-full-169.jpg” data-src-mini1x1=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190211113206-insect-decline-study-1-small-11.jpg” data-demand-load=”not-loaded” data-eq-pts=”mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781″ src=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP///////wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI+py+0Po5yUFQA7″/>

Title: Radical action needed

"Because insects constitute the world's most abundant and species-diverse animal group and provide critical services within ecosystems, such events can not be ignored and should lead to decisive action to prevent a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems," they wrote.

They suggested overhauling existing agricultural methods, "in particular a serious reduction in pesticide use and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices."

"The conclusion is clear: if we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades," they concluded.
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