Decline of insects could cause natural catastrophe, study warns

Decline of insects could cause natural catastrophe, study warns

Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, one of the report's co-authors, told The Guardian: "It is very rapid".

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.

The new report looked at dozens of existing studies on insect decline published over the past three decades, and examined the reasons behind the falling numbers.

Currently, 40% of Earth's insects are at risk of dying out while another third are considered endangered, according to CNN. The global scientific review, which studied 73 historical reports of insect population declines, said that "habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture" is the main culprit of this ecological dilemma. They found that there are 41% of insects that are in decline, while 31% of insect species have encountered threatening declination, according to the numbers set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of wildlife charity Buglife, added: "It is gravely sobering to see this collation of evidence that demonstrates the pitiful state of the world's insect populations".

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While the focus in the past has been on the decline in vertebrate animal biodiversity, this study stressed the importance of insect life on interconnected ecosystems and the food chain.

The scientists suggest that liberal use of pesticides as well as rising global temperatures and extreme weather events due to climate change are the likely culprits.

"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 awful trends". While climate change is making the tropics much hotter and pushing insects to extinction, warming in more temperate zones are making theses areas more hospitable for certain insect species, including flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and agricultural pests.

"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".

Moles, hedgehogs, anteaters, lizards, amphibians, most bats, many birds and fish all feed on insects or depend on them for rearing their offspring.

More research is also badly needed as 99% of the evidence for insect decline comes from Europe and North America with nearly nothing from Africa or South America.

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