Massive Insect Decline May Have "Catastrophic" Impact on Environment

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

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

And as Business Insidernoted, the report estimates that the insects are declining eight times as fast as mammals, birds, and reptiles. 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.

Intensive agriculture is being blamed for the plummeting numbers, particularly the heavy use of pesticides.

The biggest driver of the decline, according to the review, is habitat loss due to urbanization and agriculture. All that being said, why is a declining insect population quite so detrimental?

"Because insects constitute the world's most abundant animal group and provide critical services within ecosystems, such an event can not be ignored and should prompt decisive action to avert a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", the report said.

Published in the journal Biological Conservation, it reviews 73 existing studies from around the world published over the past 13 years.

Researchers say the world must change the way it produces food, noting that organic crops had more insects, and refrain from overusing pesticides.

Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian the stakes were seriously high.

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Meanwhile lead author of the study Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo has outlined three reasons for the "dramatic rates of decline" in insect species.

What we need to do is to change the way we make food, or we can say our goodbyes to the insects. Also, climate change plays an important role.

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

"It's not just about bees, or even about pollination and feeding ourselves - the declines also include dung beetles that recycle waste and insects like dragonflies that start life in rivers and ponds", said Matt Shardlow from United Kingdom campaigners Buglife. 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.

"It is becoming increasingly obvious our planet's ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these terrible trends".

Insects are key to functioning natural systems, from providing a food source for other wildlife such as birds, mammals and amphibians, to pollinating plants and recycling nutrients.

The in-depth research found that one third of insect species are already classed as endangered, with 40 percent in nearly all regions around the world expected to face extinction over the next few decades.

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