February 18, 2019

Global decline of insects may cause ‘plague of pests’

14 February 2019, 12:17 | Dale Webster

SUZI BOND FAIRFAX MEDIAMacleay's Swallowtail one of the butterflies found around Canberra

Macleay's Swallowtail one of the butterflies found around Canberra

Already, more than 40pc of insect species are experiencing a notable decline, with a further third being categorised as endangered. Even with this shocking rate of insect losses, they are, by far, the most abundant and varied of animals - outweighing the Earth's human population by 17 times over.

Their report appears in the publication of Biological Conservation. "If we don't have insects as moderators of other pest populations, we have insect populations that flare up and ruin crops and make them hard to grow", he said. "The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least", the journal warned.

While researches have also noted Urbanisation and climate change are significant factors. To conduct the study, researchers from The University of Sydney, the University of Queensland, and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences reviewed 73 reports chronicling the decline of insect populations all over the world, and analyzed the data.

Meanwhile lead author of the study Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo has outlined three reasons for the "dramatic rates of decline" in insect species. He said: 'It is very rapid.

The study found that declines in nearly all regions may end in the extinction of as many as 40 per cent of insects.

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

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.

Many other studies in recent years have shown that individual species of insects, such as bees, have suffered huge declines, particularly in developed economies.

"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 - allowing the slow eradication of insect life to continue is not a rational option".

The report highlights the ongoing loss of biodiversity as environmental degradation, pollution, over hunting, habitat loss and climate change deplete animal populations to worrying levels. 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. The number of bees has also been seriously affected.

Almost half of all insect species worldwide are in rapid decline and a third could disappear altogether, according to a study warning of dire consequences for crop pollination and natural food chains.

"Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades", the review's co-authors wrote.

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