World Seeing 'Catastrophic Collapse' of Insects

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

We also learned that the rate of extinction is not eight times faster than the rate of extinction of mammals, reptiles, and birds.

The majority of creatures that live on land are insects and they perform a number of roles which benefit other species, including humans.

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

A leading Norfolk farming conservationist said farmers were already at the forefront of finding ways to reverse the decline of insects and wildlife - but all parts of society needed to work together to find solutions rather than "naming and shaming" individual sectors. "The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic, to say the least".

Only a few species of insects - mainly in the tropics - are thought to have suffered due to climate change, while some in northern climes have expanded their range as temperatures warm.

Author of the review, Dr Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, an honorary associate with the Sydney Institute of Agriculture in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said that habitat loss from intensive agriculture alongside agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change are the main drivers behind the collapse in insect populations.

Reports of insect decline are not new: researchers have been warning of the phenomenon and its impact for years.

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Insects make up half of all life forms on earth and form the bedrock of food chains and the planet's life-systems.

Insects are also the world's top pollinators - 75 per cent of 115 top global food crops depend on animal pollination, including cocoa, coffee, almonds and cherries. "It's quite plausible that we might end up with plagues of small numbers of pest insects, but we will lose all the wonderful ones that we want, like bees and hoverflies and butterflies and dung beetles that do a great job of disposing of animal waste".

In a November New York Times report about a possible "insect apocalypse", scientists were asked to imagine a world with no insects.

The new study shows 41 percent of insect species have seen steep declines in the past decade, with similar drops forecast for the near future.

"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".

Two-fifths of the world's insect species may disappear over the next few decades, and we could be looking at a world without any insects at all within a century.

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