A new study shows the start of an insect apocalypse, with vast numbers of bugs threatened with extinction. We are mostly to blame.
A new report published in the biological conservation journal states that 41% of insect species are declining and threatened with extinction. The total mass of insects around the world is falling 2.5% a year. At that rate, all insects could vanish within 100 years.
The professor of biology at the University of Sussex in the UK and author of the new report, Dave Goulson, told CNN "if these massive declines continue, the ramifications are enormous." "Three-quarters of our crops depend on insect pollinators. Crops will begin to fail. We won't have things like strawberries."
One of the authors of this review, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo from Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, argues that the insect extinction rate is eight times faster than birds, mammals or reptiles. According to Sanchez-Bayo, the main reason why the bug species face extinction is the loss of habitat. Mostly because of agricultural practices, urbanization and––in tropical areas––deforestation. Another factor is pollution, primarily by different chemicals used in agriculture such as fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides. And of course, climate change, which is particularly important in forested areas and tropical countries.
In an interview with CNN, Sanchez-Bayo explained that this crisis could be catastrophic for the earth's ecosystems given that insects are the base of the food chain. Fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and bats depend on insects for their living so if that food were eliminated, all the other animals would go extinct as well. Humans would lose lots of food––particularly the ones that require pollination. Humans could survive this extinction, but not live in the same way as we do now. In Sanchez-Bayo’s words, "We might survive because we are very resilient and we have ways of surviving, but the ecosystems of the earth will collapse."
It is a crisis that needs immediate correction. It might not be possible to stop this extinction, but the rates can be reduced. To do so, Sanchez-Bayo says that we have to change the way we do agriculture at the moment. We have to go back to the ways we used to do agriculture before 1990. This means that we would use insecticides when it is actually needed––only when there is a pest outbreak and only in the areas that are needed.
The report also suggests other solutions that people can do to help. Such as start building a nature recovery network to create more and better connected, insect-friendly habitat in our gardens, towns, cities and countryside. To grow plants that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies; dig ponds to attract pond skaters, dragonflies, and beetles; provide a log or brush pile, which will attract insects and invertebrates; avoid using pesticides, and to encourage authorities to do it as well.