12 new studies show just how close insects are to extinction

Monarch butterfly in Los Angeles.  The species is declining throughout California.

Monarch butterfly in Los Angeles. The species is in decline across California.
Photo: Gabriel Boyes (Getty Images)

I don’t like bugs. Scary things with multiple legs make my skin crawl. But as annoying as they are, insects are critically important to the functioning of ecosystems in our world, and unfortunately, new research shows that populations of living things are on the verge of collapse.

This is the topic of the latest issue of Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, called the Global Decline of Insects in the Special Feature of the Anthropocene, which includes 12 Leaves Conducted by 56 authors detailing the rapid degradation of insects.

One of the causes of this degradation is habitat degradation. Such as One oAnd studies It shows that changes in land use for agriculture are a major cause. “The industrialization of agriculture during the second half of the twentieth century included farming on greatly expanded scales, monoculture, the use of increasing amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, the elimination of scattered tree fragments and other parts of wildlife habitats, all of which are destructive practices of insects and other biodiversity in Fields and near them. ” The problem is widespread – at present, about 11% of the land area is used for growing crops 30% more is used in grazing for animal farming.

The authors are particularly interested in the impacts of agriculture in the tropics, where deforestation is common to clear land for cultivation.

“Given that the vast majority of insect species diversity is found in the tropics, deforestation there is definitely among the biggest threats to insect biodiversity in the world,” the study says. Since scientists estimate that less than 15% of insects in the tropics have been discovered by humans to date, this means that many species will become extinct before we even know they exist. This can make it difficult to understand the impacts their loss will have on forest ecosystems in general.

The study authors also highlight the issue of grassland degradation in the world. Ago Much of the prairie land is used Grow crops and feed animals, Insects are native to these places– including many species of butterflies, moths, ants, bees and wasps – are among the most vulnerable.

A greater contributor to dangerous insect degradation than the direct impact of changes in land use, Another study In a bundle Offers, Is the climate crisis. “From invasive species to habitat loss, pesticides, and pollution, the pressures of the Anthropocene are many and multifaceted, but nothing is geographically dispersed or likely to interact with all other factors such as climate change,” the study says.

The authors conducted a meta-analysis of the literature from long-term monitoring of insect populations, and found many examples of population decline. In the California mountains, for example, increases in average daily minimum temperatures have caused some Butterflies numbers decline, Especially during drought years, because warmer climate disruptedAnd the Mating schedules and access to nectar-producing plants. The same is true of butterfly numbers amid soaring temperatures in Finland and the United StatesK, ie I have faced challenges in maintaining the optimum body temperature.

Elsewhere, insects actually thrive in warmer weather. The authors found evidence of this at lower elevations Parts of california And the Central Europe. This is because in some areas, the high temperatures helped the larvae They grow faster and cause some insects to mate more often. This might sound like a good thing, but a lot of insects are also a problem, as a massive population can drive out ecosystems and societies. Just see the huge locust swarms that It plagued East Africa Last year, devastating Crop lands in a region where many are already chronically hungry.

There is clearly a global need to ensure insect population levels remain where they are supposed to be. In the perspective piece that puts the 11 others in context Results of the articles, researchers lay out the main ways world leaders can achieve this.

Efforts It should include more accurate monitoring of the health and extent of the insect infestationIn addition to stress factors from high temperatures to the use of pesticides. In addition to setting up a new watch, The authors call for more resources to be devoted to analyzing existing data, And a lot of it is barely analyzed or not looked at at all. The new PNAS case, for example, includes the first-ever analysis of insect data from the United States Long Term Environmental Research Program Since then It was founded in 1980.

Even if we do not increase the monitoring and Perspective authors say, we know enough for world leaders to take some immediate action steps. They can work to limit the amount of land used for agriculture and the amount of pesticides allowed to be usedAnd they can quickly enact policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to de-escalate the climate crisis. And scholars It can work harder to communicate the importance of insect groups to the public, so the public will demand more efforts to protect the insects. The perspective says, indeed, that many insect populations are declining at annual rates of 1-2% per year, making themOf course with Sion Extinction if we don’t reverse course.

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