A new study conducted by researchers from the Entomological Society Krefeld in Germany and Radboud University in the Netherlands has come to a troubling conclusion: the world’s insect populations are declining.
The 27-year study, which was published in October in the journal PLOS, found that flying insect populations declined by more than 75% over the span of the study. Researchers believe this decline will impact on the world’s ecosystems and crop production.
The study states, “The flying insect community as a whole… has been decimated over the last few decades. Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services.”
Caspar Hallman, co-author of the study, said he and the other researchers were “very, very surprised” by what they found. He told CNN, “These are not agricultural areas, these are locations meant to preserve biodiversity, but still we see the insects slipping out of our hands.”
Tanya Latty, a research and teaching fellow in entomology at Sydney University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, is happy about the scope of insects researched in the study. She stated, “This study lumps all flying insects together, which gives researchers a more accurate picture of the overall decline of the populations.”
She went on to say, “If you see these sort of dramatic declines in protected areas it makes me worry that this (trend) could be everywhere. There’s no reason to think this isn’t happening everywhere.”
Latty doesn’t think people fully understand how important insects are. She says that insects are “crucial to biodiversity, and we exist because of biodiversity.”
“We don’t often think about insects other than ‘eww, an insect.’ But these are the organisms running the world. Insects pollinate the crops we eat, they contribute to pest control, we’d have to use more pesticide. They’re even crucial in waste control — most of the waste in urban areas is taken care of by ants and cockroaches.”
Declining populations of insects will have devastating effects on our planet and its occupants. Nothing on the Earth exists in a bubble. Every living thing contributes to the health and wellbeing of every other living thing.
Insects are near the bottom of the food chain. Animals who feed on them are then fed upon by other predators, and so on. Insects pollinate both the food we eat and wild plants that are a food source for animals. They’re also responsible for much of the nutrient cycling in soil.
Experts believe that there are a number of factors for the decline of insects. Overuse of pesticides, loss of habitat and climate change could all possibly be contributing factors.
No matter the cause, says Latty, “The first step is acknowledging that we have a problem, and working to correct that — how do we design our agriculture to encourage insects? It could be something as simple as growing wildflowers along the edges of fields.”
The first step toward reversing the decline, Latty believes, is educating people on the importance of insects. “…it’s a struggle to convince people that insects are important,” she stated, “insects are important, absolutely crucial to our survival.”