Plummeting decline: ‘may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world’s insect species over the next few decades.’

The report, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says ‘intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines,’ particularly the use of  ‘agro-chemical pollutants’ combined with urbanisation and climate change.

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The scientific review reports that over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction over the next few decades.

Highlights:

Over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction.

Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and dung beetles (Coleoptera) are the taxa most affected.

Four aquatic taxa are imperiled and have already lost a large proportion of species.

Habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines.

Agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change are additional causes.

An abstract from the review states that the ‘Affected insect groups not only include specialists that occupy particular ecological niches, but also many common and generalist species. Concurrently, the abundance of a small number of species is increasing; these are all adaptable, generalist species that are occupying the vacant niches left by the ones declining. Among aquatic insects, habitat and dietary generalists, and pollutant-tolerant species are replacing the large biodiversity losses experienced in waters within agricultural and urban settings.’

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‘The main drivers of species declines appear to be in order of importance: i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanisation; ii) pollution, mainly that by synthetic pesticides and fertilisers; iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and iv) climate change. The latter factor is particularly important in tropical regions, but only affects a minority of species in colder climes and mountain settings of temperate zones. A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide. In addition, effective remediation technologies should be applied to clean polluted waters in both agricultural and urban environments.’

Get access to the full report here.

Simon King’s comment: It’s incontrovertible, nature is on the back foot. The question is, what are we going to do about it? The government isn’t doing enough to focus on reversing these serious trends. Brexit has become the only goal and I can completely understand why and how that’s become the case; however, if this review is correct, the eventual eradication of (at least) 40% of insect species is canary and coal mines on a global scale, and perhaps beyond our wildest imagination – which may be why it’s not on the tip of every politician’s tongue. If some of us – apparently – are going to hell for the mismanagement of Brexit, what is reserved for those of us who can do something to protect nature but choose to ignore its pain? We’ve paid to educate our scientists and naturalists and they’re repaying the debt by giving over their lives to research (and probably receiving very little payment for it). The least we can do is listen to them and take appropriate ACTION.

Tell me what you think…?

 

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