Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Three-Decade Survey Shows Drastic Decline in Insect Populations

Entomological Society Krefeld entomologists setting up a Malaise trapENTOMOLOGICAL SOCIETY KREFELD Entomological Society Krefeld entomologists setting up a Malaise trapENTOMOLOGICAL SOCIETY KREFELD
Tracy Craig | 20 October, 2017, 00:59

The drop in airborne insects over Germany was higher than the global estimated insect decline of 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, the scientists said in a paper published Wednesday by the journal PLOS ONE. Researchers were aware numbers had been fallen, but they did not know to what extent. There is also a worrying drop of 82 per cent in the summer - the high season for insects indicating that the highest losses occur when biomass is highest during a season.

"If total flying insect biomass is genuinely declining at this rate [about 6 percent per year], it is extremely concerning", she said.

The decline appears to be present in all habitat types. "This decrease has always been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought", Hallmann said in a statement. Although the change in weather patterns over the past three decades may account for some of the decline, it does not tell the whole story.

While noting they had not "exhaustively analyzed the climatic variables" that may have impacted populations, such as "prolonged droughts, or lack of sunshine especially in low temperatures", they also suggested "agricultural intensification (e.g. pesticide usage, year-round tillage, increased use of fertilizers and frequency of agronomic measures) that we could not incorporate in our analyses, may form a plausible cause".

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

"Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth", Dave Goulson, a biologist at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and a co-author of the new study, said in a statement.

"If you see these sort of dramatic declines in protected areas it makes me worry that this (trend) could be everywhere", she said. "On current trajectory, our grandchildren will inherit a profoundly impoverished world". "All these areas are protected and majority are managed nature reserves", a co-author of the study from Radboud University, Casper Hallmann, said.

"Although lower numbers of some pest insects might be welcome news, the loss of pollinators, beneficial insects and of food for insect-eaters such as birds and bats will have ecosystem-wide consequences", said David Inouye, an ecologist who wasn't involved in the study. "We can barely imagine what would happen if this downward trend continues unabated".

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