Global decline of insects may cause ‘plague of pests’

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An overhaul of the agricultural industry is "urgently needed" to "allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide", wrote co-authors from Sydney and Queensland universities.

"If we don't have insects as moderators of other pest populations, we have insect populations that flare up and ruin crops and make them hard to grow", he said.

The paper reviewed 73 existing studies published around the world in the past 13 years and concluded that one-third of insect species are "endangered", while 40 percent could be extinct within decades.

If insect species losses can not be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind'.

Meanwhile lead author of the study Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo has outlined three reasons for the "dramatic rates of decline" in insect species. "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 numerous world's ecosystems since their rise at the end of the Devonian period, nearly 400 million years ago".

In their report published in Biological Conservation, scientists point the destructive role of intensive agriculture and pollution, mainly caused by the use of pesticides and fertilisers.

The study included a wide range of reports to paint the clearest picture of how insect populations are faring worldwide.

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While researches have also noted Urbanisation and climate change are significant factors. Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian: "It is very rapid".

Last year, one study found that flying insect populations in German nature reserves declined by more than 75% over the duration of a 27-year study, meaning that the die-off is happening even beyond areas affected by human activity.

The researchers said the intensification of agriculture over the past six decades was "the root cause of the problem" and that the widespread use of pesticides was having a major impact.

But insects comprise about two-thirds of all terrestrial species, and have been the foundation of key ecosystems since emerging nearly 400 million years ago.

"So we still need the bees and the other insects to come along and pollinate them".

Insects are also being hit by biological factors, such as pathogens and introduced species, and by climate change, where rising temperatures could affect the range of places where they can live.

Britain has seen a measurable decline across 60 per cent of its large insect groups, or taxa, followed by North America (51 per cent) and Europe as a whole (44 per cent).

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