World

World seeing 'catastrophic collapse' of insects, study reveals

World seeing 'catastrophic collapse' of insects, study reveals

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.

The pace of insect decline appears to be the same in tropical and temperate climates, though there is far more data from North America and Europe than the rest of the world.

According to the study's authors, insects have served as the "structural and functional base of numerous world's ecosystems since their rise. nearly 400 million years ago".

The review, which looked at 73 studies conducted around the world, claimed that more than 40 per cent of insect species are now declining, adding that the rate of extinction is about eight times faster than the respective rate for birds, mammals and reptiles.

Their study was published this week in Biological Conservation. Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian: "It is very rapid". 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.




An overhaul of the agricultural industry is "urgently needed" to "allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide", wrote co-authors from Sydney and Queensland universities. The analysis, which looked at 73 studies that assess insect decline, found that butterflies and moths are the worst hit by the trend.

"Unless we change our ways of producing food", the authors write, "insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades".

Speaking with The Guardian, report co-author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney said: "If insect species losses can not be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind".

The researchers said the intensification of agriculture over the past six decades was "the root cause of the problem" and that the widespread use of pesticides was having a major impact.

While some of our most important insect species are in retreat, the review also finds that a small number of species are likely to be able to adapt to changing conditions and do well. Of the insects that remain, 41pc are in decline. "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". Drastically reduce pesticide use and redesign agricultural systems to make them more insect-friendly.