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Massive insect decline could have 'catastrophic' impact, study says

14 February 2019

If insects continue dying, it would create major problems for life around the world, because insects are some of the main food sources for many animals including birds, fish, reptiles and some mammal species. So it doesn't sound as bad to us to imagine an insect going extinct, as opposed to a larger animal that would be more obviously missed. The scientists reviewed 73 studies from around the world published over the last 13 years to reach their conclusions.

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.

Many insects that are beneficial to other animals and humans are declining up to eight times faster than other mammals or birds.

"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", stated Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney and an author of the study. Lead author Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo said One-third of insect species are classed as endangered.

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

The authors are concerned about the impact of insect decline up along the food chain.

There are an estimated 10 quintillion insects on earth - 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 - outweighing humanity by 17 times.

Don Sands, an entomologist and retired Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization scientist, said he agreed "entirely" that the "bottom-up" effects of insect loss were serious.

"Pest insects" like flies and cockroaches could thrive as the number of other insect species declines, says a professor.

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The disappearance of insects around the world could cause a "catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", the researchers stated.

There is also ample evidence of declines in temperate regions driven by a combination of climate change and habitat fragmentation.

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'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".

"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".

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

Massive insect decline could have 'catastrophic' impact, study says