Home / Science / Insects are dying at a record rate, which is a sign of a sixth mass extinction

Insects are dying at a record rate, which is a sign of a sixth mass extinction

Somehow, it is easier to worry about the death of wolves, sea turtles and white rhinos than to feel remorse for the insects that disappear.

But the loss of insects is a serious threat, one that could trigger a "catastrophic collapse of Earth's ecosystems," warns a new study.

The research, the first global review of its kind, examined 73 historical reports on the decline of insects worldwide and found that the total mass of all insects on planets is decreasing by 2.5% per year.

If this trend continues unabated, the Earth may not have any insects for 2119.

"In 10 years it will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half will be left and in 100 years it will not have any," Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, co-author of the study and researcher at the University of Sydney, told The Guardian.

That is a big problem, since insects are sources of food for innumerable species of birds, fish and mammals. Pollinators such as bees and butterflies also play a crucial role in the production of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Insects are extinguished 8 times faster than mammals, birds and reptiles.

Sánchez-Bayo and his co-authors focused their analysis on insects in European and North American countries. They estimated that 41% of insect species are in decline, 31% are threatened (according to the criteria established by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and 10% are locally extinct.

That rate of extinction is eight times faster than the rate of extinction observed for mammals, birds and reptiles.

The study suggests that bee species in the United Kingdom, Denmark and North America have received great impacts: bumblebees, bees and wild bee species are declining. In the USA UU., The number of bee colonies was reduced from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million only six decades later.

A California beekeeper inspects his bee hive.

Moths and butterflies are also disappearing in Europe and the United States. Only between 2000 and 2009, the United Kingdom lost 58% of the butterfly species in farmland.

Dragonflies, flies and beetles also seem to be dying.

By looking at all animal populations across the planet (not just insects), according to a 2017 study, the Earth appears to be undergoing a process of "biological annihilation". That analysis estimated that "up to 50% of the number of animal individuals that once shared the Earth with us have already left."

This rapid decline in global biodiversity is sometimes called the "sixth extinction," since it is the sixth time in the history of life on Earth that the planet's fauna has experienced a large collapse in numbers.

In the past, mass extinctions were due to the appearance of ice ages or asteroid collisions. However, this massive extinction is driven by human activities, namely deforestation, mining and carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

"Since insects comprise about two-thirds of all terrestrial species on Earth, previous trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly affecting life forms on our planet," the authors wrote.

Read more:Scientists say that we are witnessing the sixth mass extinction of the planet, and the "biological annihilation" is the last sign

& # 39; Catastrophic consequences for … the survival of humanity & # 39;

By 2119, all the insects in the world could have disappeared.
Joe Klementovich / Aurora Photos / Getty

The study emphasizes that insects are "essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems" such as food sources, crop pollinators, pest controllers and nutrient recyclers in the soil.

"If the losses of insect species can not be stopped, this will have catastrophic consequences both for the ecosystems of the planet and for the survival of humanity," Sánchez-Bayo al Guardian said.

According to Timothy Schowalter, professor of entomology at Louisiana State University, Timothy Schowalter, professor of entomology at Louisiana State University, believes that the substantial decline in insect populations threatens the production of food, wood and fiber from the which depends on the survival of humanity.

"The decline of pollinators endangers 35% of our global food supply, which is why European countries are demanding the protection and restoration of pollinator habitats," he told Business Insider.

Schowalter added that insects are also critical food resources for many birds, fish and other vertebrates, which would disappear if their food source does.

"Insects are often defamed, or at least their significant contributions to ecosystem productivity and the provision of ecosystem services are underestimated," said Schowalter. "In short, if insects and other arthropods are diminished, our survival will be threatened."

This is not the first time that scientists call attention to the fall of insect populations.

In 2017, a study indicated that 75% of Germany's flying insects had disappeared since the 1990s. Another recent study showed that the total biomass of arthropods, creatures such as insects, spiders and lobsters that have articulated legs but no spine , in Puerto Rico it has been submerged since the 70s.

Pesticides and fertilizers, together with the intensive use of land for agriculture, are the main drivers of this decline.

"In general, the systematic, widespread and often superfluous use of pesticides on agricultural and pasture lands in the last 60 years has negatively impacted most organisms, from insects to birds and bats," the authors of the new study wrote. .

They added: "The conclusion is clear: unless we change our ways of producing food, the insects as a whole will go down the road of extinction in a few decades."

Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian that he believes insecticides such as neonicotinoids and fipronil are especially harmful.

"They sterilize the soil, killing all the larvae," he said.

A farmer sprays pesticides containing monocrotophos in a rice field in the town of Mohanpur, about 45 km (28 miles) west of Agartala, capital of the state of Tripura, northeastern India, on July 25, 2013.
REUTERS / Jayanta Dey

Temperature changes driven by climate change also play a role in the death of insects, although it is not the main factor.

"So far, declines have been linked more to changes in land use, especially agricultural intensification, forest fragmentation and urban development, than to the change in temperature," Schowalter said.

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