A new study reveals the number of insects around the world are declining, a decline researchers say could be “catastrophic.”
More than 40 percent of the world’s insect species could go extinct over the next several decades leading to “catastrophic” results for the planet’s various ecosystems, a new study says.
The study published in the April edition of the peer-reviewed journal Biological Conservation said dung beetles, butterflies, moths, bees and wasps are among those species that appear to be the most affected.
The study cites habitat loss due to “intensive agriculture and urbanization,” pollution and climate change as key reasons for the rapid declines.
“The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least, as insects are at the structural and functional base of many of the world’s ecosystems,” reads an excerpt from the study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney, the University of Queensland and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
The study is based on a review of 73 comprehensive reports from around the world detailing insect declines.
The study said more than 60 percent of dung beetles in Mediterranean countries are in decline, while one in six species of bees have gone regionally extinct.
Researchers note most studies on extinction among species tend to focus on birds or mammals, but insects were underrepresented despite their “paramount importance” in keeping ecosystems functioning.
The study advises several changes to slow or halt the decline, including a serious reduction in the use of pesticides.
Insects play a critical role in ecosystems, said Tim Kring, chair of the entomology department at Virginia Tech University. “They are important as food for other organisms that allow those to reproduce, so that other species depend on, Kring said. “Most plants depend on insects in many ways for their own reproduction.”
Insects could also prove helpful to humans, too. As an example, Kring said many sources of drugs could come from an insect, plant, or other biological organism.
“When we lose species, that reduces our ability to discover new things unrelated to the species themselves possibly,” he said.
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