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

Urban cockroaches might do well amid a collapse of insect populations globally

They provide food for birds, bats and small mammals; they pollinate around 75% of the crops in the world; they replenish soils and keep pest numbers in check.

The pace of insect decline appears to be the same in tropical and temperate climates, though there is far more data from North America and Europe than the rest of the world. The global scientific review, which studied 73 historical reports of insect population declines, said that "habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture" is the main culprit of this ecological dilemma.

Their report appears in the publication of Biological Conservation.

The researchers Francisco Sanchez-Bayo and Kris Wyckhuys said: "The conclusion is clear: unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades". As for pollinators, we have already documented the decline in butterflies and bees, so essential to our agricultural needs.

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

Currently, 40% of Earth's insects are at risk of dying out while another third are considered endangered, according to CNN.

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Speaking with The Guardian, report co-author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney said: "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 the focus in the past has been on the decline in vertebrate animal biodiversity, this study stressed the importance of insect life on interconnected ecosystems and the food chain. With many species of birds, reptiles and fish depending on insects as their main food source, it's likely that these species may also be wiped out as a result.

According to The Guardian, insects overall are decreasing in population by 2.5 percent a year, which means they could completely disappear within 100 years. Pollution, particularly the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers, is also a major contributor to the dwindling number of insects around the world.

Insects play a profoundly important role in Earth's ecosystems.

But where many die, others are expected to thrive, as "plagues of pests" may arise out of the loss of butterflies, bees, and dung beetles. For one thing, humans need to rethink "current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices".

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