This is mainly due to insects losing their habitats to farming and urbanization. Theuse of pesticides and fertilizers is also to blame, as well as climate change.
The study’s authors also stated that the repercussions of this loss of Earth’s insects could be catastrophic and a sign that the planet is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction.
While it’s easier to be concerned about wolves, sea turtles, and white rhinos dying off we are less concerned about vanishing bugs. But the loss of insects is a dire threat, one that could trigger a “catastrophic collapse of Earth’s ecosystems.
The research looked at 73 historical reports on insect declines around the world and found the total mass of all insects on the planets is decreasing by 2.5% per year. If this trend continues unabated, the Earth may not have any insects at all by 2119.
“In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years ou will have none,” stated Francisco Sanchez- Bayo, a study co-author and researcher at the University of Sydney.
Another recent study, published in the journal Nature Communications, reported that one-third of 353 wild bee and hoverfly species in the UK are experienced to declines between 1980 and 2013.
The trends in these studies herald a big problem, because insects are food sources for countless bird, fish, and mammal species. Pollinators like bees and hoverflies also perform a crucial role in fruit, vegetable, and nut production.
Sanchez-Bayo and his co-authors focused their analysis on insects in European and North American countries. They estimated that 41% of insect species are in decline, 31% are threatened (according to criteria set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature), and 10% are going locally extinct.
The study suggested that bee species in the UK, Denmark, and North America have taken major hits. In the US, the number of honey-bee colonies ropped from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million just six decades later.
Moths and butterflies are also disappearing across Europe and the US. Between 2000 nd 2009 alone, the UK lost 58% of butterfly species on farmed land. Dragonflies, mayflies, and beetles appear to be dying off as well.
When looking at the planet’s overall animal populations, according to a 2017 study, the Earth appears to be undergoing a process of “biological annihilation.” The analysis estimated that “as much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth with us are already gone.
”This rapid decline in global biodiversity is sometimes called the “sixth extinction,” since it’s the sixth time in the history of life on Earth that the planet’s fauna has experienced a major collapse in numbers.
In the past, mass extinctions have been caused by the emergence of ice ages or asteroid collisions. This mass extinction, however, is driven by human activities, namely deforestation, mining, and carbondioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.
As insects comprise about two thirds of all terrestrial species on Earth, the above trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting life forms on our planet. ‘Catastrophic consequences for ... the survival of mankind’ Insects are “essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems” as food sources, crop pollinators, pest controllers, nd nutrient recyclers in soil; If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind.
The authors of the recent UK study noted that the geographic range of bee and hoverfly species declined by 25%, that’s net loss of about 11 species per square kilometre, primarily due to a reduction in the pollinators’ habitats. Insects also are critical food resources for many birds, fish, and other vertebrates, which would disappear if their food sources do. Farming practices are behind the insect die-off This isn’t the first time scientists have called attention to plummeting insect populations.
Pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy land use for farming are primary drivers of this decline. The systematic, widespread and often superfluous use of pesticides in agricultural and pasture land over the past 60 years has negatively impacted most organisms, from insects to birds and bats. “Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.” Sanchez-Bayo thinks insecticides such as neonicotinoids and fipronil are especially damaging. “They sterilize the soil, illing all the grubs,” he said.
Climate-changedriven temperature shifts are playing a role in insect deaths, too, though it’s not the main factor. It is imperative that current esticide usagepatterns, mainly insecticides and fungicides, are reduced to a minimum.