'Alarming' study shows number of insects have been decimated in Germany

Insects within alcohol Malaise trapENTOMOLOGICAL SOCIETY KREFELD

The finding was even more worrying given that it was happening in nature reserves, which are meant to protect insects and other living species, the researchers said.

Insects comprise approximately two-thirds of all life on Earth, and ecosystems depend on them to pollinate plants and provide food for many animals. The authors urge further investigation of causes for this decline, its geographical extent, and how its potential impact on the ecosystem.

While it is well documented that butterflies and bees have been disappearing in Europe and North America, the study in PLOS ONE is the first to document that flying insects in general have decreased by more than three-quarters across Germany since 1989.

The results are based on the work of dozens of amateur entomologists across Germany, who have been catching insects in malaise traps - large tent-like structures that funnel insects into a collecting cylinder.

Researchers say weather variability can explain some swings in the numbers of insects, but changes in vegetation and climate alone can't explain the severity of the broad decline. "This decrease has always been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought".

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At 82 percent, the decline of insects biomass during midsummer, when insects populations tend to peak, proved more severe than the annual average decline. They also suggested "agricultural intensification", including the use of pesticides, increased use of fertilizers and year-round tillage, could be a "plausible cause" for the decline.

While no corresponding data over the same study period is available for non-flying insects, "we can just hope they are faring better, but we have no reason to believe that is the case", Hallman said.

'We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are now on course for ecological Armageddon.

Hans de Kroon, project leader at Radboud University, said: "The fact that flying insects are decreasing at..."

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