New research has found that a startling 40 percent of insect species are in decline and a third are endangered. Researchers state that the decline of insects is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Numbers are dropping at a steady 2.5 percent a year as Earth faces its sixth mass extinction in its history.
The knock-on effect for humanity could be devastating as the fragile ecosystem and the food chain will be diminished without insects.
The study was published in the journal Biological Conversation, with the authors writing: “Our work reveals dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40 percent of the world’s insect species over the next few decades.
“From our compilation of published scientific reports, we estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline (41 percent) to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction (10 percent) eight times higher, confirming previous findings.
“The insect trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting on life forms on our planet.
“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.
“The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”
As a result, authorities have been urged to rethink the ways in which food is produced, if we are to save the insects.
The report continues: “A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide.”
Mark Wright, Director of Science, at World Wildlife Federation (WWF), who was not involved in the study believes the report is a dire warning for our planet.
He said: “This is not about a summer without the chirp of crickets – this is about the disappearance of the foundation of life on Earth.
“The collapse of insect numbers is another sign that our planet is in crisis and we need urgent action, on a global scale, to protect nature. Our future depends on it.”
Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, who wrote the review with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, told the Guardian: “If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind.”