Friday, 22 February, 2019

Earth’s Ecosystems at Risk as Insects Dying at Record Rates

Insects could become extinct in 100 years scientists have warned. /COURTESY Insects could become extinct in 100 years scientists have warned. /COURTESY
Doris Mccormick | 14 February, 2019, 12:18

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

"Thirdly, we have biological factors, such as invasive species and pathogens; and fourthly, we have climate change, particularly in tropical areas where it is known to have a big impact".

The report said pollution and habitat loss because of intensive agriculture and urbanization are the two most important drivers for falling populations.

"The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least, as insects are at the structural and functional base of numerous world's ecosystems since their rise at the end of the Devonian period, nearly 400 million years ago". The loss of any large insect population will throw an ecosystem into disarray, ultimately affecting every other species, including apex predators like humans.

The biologists conducted a systematic review of 73 historic reports of insect declines across the world.

"We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline - 41 per cent - to be twice as high as that of vertebrates", or animals with a backbone, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney and Kris Wyckhuys of the University of Queensland in Australia reported.

Professor Goulson encouraged people to make more insect-friendly gardens and to stop using pesticides and buy organic food.

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Nonetheless, a new study which found that insects are dying at record rates, should alarm us due to the fact that insect extinction would mean catastrophic consequences for ecosystems on Earth, and thus for us.

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.

In a November New York Times report about a possible "insect apocalypse", scientists were asked to imagine a world with no insects.

Jake Fiennes, conservation general manager at the Holkham Estate and a member of the National Farmers' Union's environment forum, said: "We can all accept that there has been a decline in insects, whether we gain our information as a result of scientific data or anecdotes", he said.

"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 number of bees has also been seriously affected.

Added CNN: 'Some 80% of wild plants use insects for pollination while 60% of birds rely on insects as a food source, according to the study.

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