Insect declines and extinction warning in Biological Conservation report | Farming

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"The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century".

By a large margin, habitat change - deforestation, urbanisation, conversion to farmland - emerged as the biggest cause of insect decline and extinction threat.

"Because insects constitute the world's most abundant animal group and provide critical services within ecosystems, such an event can not be ignored and should prompt decisive action to avert a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", the report said.

Furthermore, scientist Francisco Sánchez-Bayo states that "if insect species losses can not be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind", while adding that the 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is "shocking".

More than a third of the world's insects are threatened with extinction in the next few decades.

"The main cause of the decline is agricultural intensification", said Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, of the University of Sydney, Australia, who wrote the review with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

The study included a wide range of reports to paint the clearest picture of how insect populations are faring worldwide. Other factors such as pathogens, introduced species, and climate change are also some of the key factors that threaten insect populations.

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So, which insects are most in danger of disappearing first? The analysis, which looked at 73 studies that assess insect decline, found that butterflies and moths are the worst hit by the trend.

The researchers found that declines in nearly all regions may lead to the extinction of 40% of insects over the next few decades.

Conservation and biodiversity groups have called on the more careful use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers in agriculture to address the problem.

It goes without saying that insects are essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, with respect to their roles as pollinators, recyclers of nutrients, as well as being the main source of food for other species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

Next was pollution and the widespread use of pesticides in commercial agriculture.

While some of our most important insect species are in retreat, the review also finds that a small number of species are likely to be able to adapt to changing conditions and do well.

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