Most of us think that insects are pests. However, their role in keeping the world’s natural order is vital. However, the insect “extinction event” is going to throw all of that into disarray. Insects produce food for numerous other species, pollinate plants, and recycle nutrients.
Global populations of insects were recently reviewed and published in the journal Biological Conservation. However, the findings are quite alarming. Over 40% of insect populations around the world are declining rapidly. The researchers concluded that the trend is a confirmation of the 6th mass extinction event and its profound impact on the planet’s life forms.
Insect Extinction Event Approaching Rapidly
The Insect Extinction Event is not exactly a sudden and unexpected discovery. In 2018, October, a research team from Germany had announced that the insect population in the country had decreased by 77% from 1989 till 2016.
A Puerto Rican researcher had reported similar reports regarding insect biomass. He had revisited sites where research had been conducted in the past. He had then compared data recorded in the 1970s with the numbers he discovered at the sites in the 2010s. Biomass is the organism mass that lives in the area. The biomass has declined by about 2.5% annually.
However, these local findings may often be indicating a global trend. The Biological Conservation publication seems to be indicating that fact about a possible insect extinction event.
The 40% decline is not the only alarming statistic. Currently, 1/3rd of all insect species have been categorized as endangered. These two coupled with the earlier biomass finding, have led researchers to issue a warning: a possible insect extinction event is on the horizon and could happen by the time the century comes to an end.
Francesco Sanchez-Bayo, a professor at Sydney University and the lead author, said that the decline is extremely rapid. He forecasts that in a decade, there will be a further 25% decline. In half a century, there will only be 50% left. In a century, there will be none left.
Sanchez-Bayo along with Wyckhus had collected 73 top studies about insect populations to determine the possible insect extinction event. The studies covered South America, Brazil, China, Australia, and mostly Europe.
No Insects Are Safe
The review concluded that moths and butterflies are the ones to have been hit worst. Beetles and bees take second place. In England’s farmed lands, the population of butterflies has decreased by 58% from 2000 till 2009. Ohio record a decrease of 33% from 1996 till 2016 in its butterfly population. The number of Monarch butterflies in California had reportedly decreased by 86% in just 2 years: 2018 and 2017.
Other insects like crickets, flies, and ants possibly share the same fate. One of the major reasons behind the possible insect extinction event has been pointed out as our present agricultural practices.
He explains that agricultural intensification is the main reason behind the insects’ decline. This means getting rid of all shrubs and trees that usually line the fields. As a result, there are bare, plain fields treated with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
In regions where heavy practices of agriculture are absent, climate change is wiping out populations. This is the major reason behind the possible insect extinction event in the tropical region.
One more major culprit is believed to be artificial light. This culprit is often overlooked, but light pollution harms the overall development and mating habits of insects.
Among the three culprits, this one is the easiest to solve. For the others, experts suggest creating wildflower meadows to create more homes for the essential insects. Hopefully, the possible insect extinction evens remains only a possibility.