Scientists Predict 'Catastrophic Consequences' for Mankind as Insects Die Out

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

In Europe, over the past 30 years bird populations have declined by 400 million, likely a casualty of the huge decline in flying insects.

Forty per cent of insect species are suffering dramatic declines in their populations that could lead to extinction, a review of global insect numbers has found.

"Because insects constitute the world's most abundant animal group and provide critical services within ecosystems, such an event can not be ignored and should prompt decisive action to avert a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", the report said.

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".

More than a third of the world's insects are threatened with extinction in the next few decades. Meanwhile, when asked about the main cause of the decline, Sánchez-Bayo believes it's due to agricultural intensification, specifically in relation to insecticides that have been introduced in the last 20 years.

Insect biomass is declining by a staggering 2.5% a year, a rate that indicates widespread extinctions within a century, the report found. Further Reading:Climate change cited in dwindling of Puerto Rico insects Besides being a food source for birds and many bats and small animals, insects pollinate over 75 percent of our food crops, help in replenishing the soil and keep other insects in check. The wide use of pesticides and fertilizer as well as industrial pollution are also taking massive tolls.

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"Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades", they wrote.

"Second is the increasing use of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture worldwide and contamination with chemical pollutants of all kinds", he said.

Sánchez-Bayo and his co-authors centered their evaluation on bugs in European and North American nations.

Jake Fiennes, conservation general manager at the Holkham Estate and a member of the National Farmers' Union's environment forum, said: "We can all accept that there has been a decline in insects, whether we gain our information as a result of scientific data or anecdotes", he said.

"The essential role that insects play as food items of many vertebrates is often forgotten", the researchers said. 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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