Insects Are Dying Off at an Alarming Rate

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

Even with this shocking rate of insect losses, they are, by far, the most abundant and varied of animals - outweighing the Earth's human population by 17 times over.

The majority of creatures that live on land are insects and they perform a number of roles which benefit other species, including humans.

The main driver behind the decline, they found, was habitat loss due to intensive agriculture and urbanisation.

A leading Norfolk farming conservationist said farmers were already at the forefront of finding ways to reverse the decline of insects and wildlife - but all parts of society needed to work together to find solutions rather than "naming and shaming" individual sectors.

"Because insects constitute the world's most abundant and (species-diverse) animal group and provide critical services within ecosystems, such events can not be ignored and should prompt decisive action to avert a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", they wrote. The scientists reviewed 73 studies from around the world published over the last 13 years to reach their conclusions.

The world's insect population could be entirely erased by the end of the century, according to new research, but which species are most threatened? 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.

"We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline - 41 per cent - to be twice as high as that of vertebrates", or animals with a backbone, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney and Kris Wyckhuys of the University of Queensland in Australia reported. He said: 'It is very rapid.

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Indeed, "ecosystem services provided by wild insects have been estimated at $57 billion annually in the U.S.", according to an earlier study.

'Second is the increasing use of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture worldwide and contamination with chemical pollutants of all kinds.

"It is becoming increasingly obvious our planet's ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these awful trends".

The authors are concerned about the impact of insect decline up along the food chain.

Britain has seen a measurable decline across 60 per cent of its large insect groups, or taxa, followed by North America (51 per cent) and Europe as a whole (44 per cent).

The report highlights the ongoing loss of biodiversity as environmental degradation, pollution, over hunting, habitat loss and climate change deplete animal populations to worrying levels.

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