Insects at risk of extinction

Tuesday 12th February 2019 | Jake

A major review published in Biological Conservation has outlined the steep decline in the world’s insect population, putting Earth’s ecosystems in a perilous state. The review, which is the first of its kind, analysed research from 73 separate studies from across the globe.

Written by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris Wyckhuys, Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers details that over 41% of insect species have declined in population in the last decade, with a third of species now recognised as endangered. Additionally, data published in the report notes 2.5% of the overall insect population has been lost annually in the past 25-30 years. The rate at which insect populations are approaching extinction is a startling eight times faster than the rates of birds, mammals and reptiles.

As hinted in the review’s title, a number of causes were identified as quickening the insect population decline. Unsurprisingly climate change has had a negative impact, while urbanisation has also harmed insects. However, the review identifies intensive agriculture (ie habitat loss to farming), and the widespread use of pesticides as the major contributor to declining insect populations.

Insects are essential to the health of the Earth’s ecosystems, by pollinating and providing prey they help maintain the working order of nature. Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys warn that without immediate and wide-ranging reform to food production, insect populations will die out within a century. The loss of these insects will undoubtedly result in the starvation of millions of animals relying on insects as food.

The consequences of extinction could not be more dire, and change must be as swift as it is strong to limit the already tremendous damage done. On top of agricultural reform, the report urges a thorough clean-up of polluted ecosystems, such as using remediation technologies to clean waterways. Without a major shift in attitudes and actions soon, the problem intensifies, and the consequences grimmer.