Insects could vanish within a century, causing collapse of nature

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#1 Posted by qx0d (333 posts) -

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature

https://www.nbc-2.com/story/39942502/massive-insect-decline-could-have-catastrophic-environmental-impact-study-says

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” said Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, who wrote the review with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” he said. Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.

Other scientists agree that it is becoming clear that insect losses are now a serious global problem. “The evidence all points in the same direction,” said Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in the UK. “It should be of huge concern to all of us, for insects are at the heart of every food web, they pollinate the large majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy, recycle nutrients, control pests, and much more. Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects.”

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#2 Edited by SBan83 (35 posts) -

I've always wondered what value insects have other than scaring and sometimes poisoning the hell out of us with skin diseases, malaria or death. I knew of course that aerial birds eat bugs but birds we grow for food like chickens and turkey eat feed, so what's the problem? Same with animals that we eat. And fish live in water bodies so how are they dependent on the decreasing GROUND insects?

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#3 Edited by KungfuKitten (26321 posts) -

Yes in Europe I heard about this. They said about a 60%-80% drop in insects counted, in the past 25 years or so. But still, I have mosquito's in my house every day in summer and fall. And my dogs find more ticks than ever before. So we are somehow killing off the wrong bugs.

@sban83 AFAIK insects serve as food for birds/amphibians/mammals, to pollinate crops, and to break down material to nutrients. About 80% of all wild green and 60% of all birds are dependent on insects, and I think about 80% of all plants in the world (non-wild and wild together) are dependent on bees. I don't know if bees have been a discussion point in the USA but it has been a well known thing here because the media has been talking about it a lot. The bee populations have been dangerously diminished for years now. And apparently there is this number of bees that is necessary to keep bees from going extinct and it's a number far higher than 2 bees. I don't know specifically how GROUND insects impact everything. I can imagine that we'll see birds die and maybe problems in forest growth, but I don't know where exactly they measure because I can imagine that around the crops of farmers or in forests you get wildly different readings.

I think fish can eat the insects that walk on water. Water fleas? I know very little about this XD My little sister studies environmental science and sustainable energy, maybe she knows more.

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#4 Posted by Random_Matt (3842 posts) -

Good.

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#5 Edited by KungfuKitten (26321 posts) -

BTW it isn't just ground insects. There have been 'countings' (I don't know how you say it in English) in the UK for instance for high flying insects since 1973 and they also see diminishing numbers but less so. In my country it's mostly butterflies, bees and hoverflies that are going down rapidly in numbers. I don't know if they have found a cause yet.

Google translated from an article interviewing De Kroon from a university in the Netherlands, studying the German study on the decline of insects, a while back:

The researchers are cautious about the cause of the enormous decline. "We now know, what this is not about because of this study: we can omit the changing climate and the management of the landscapes as possible causes, and what remains is that these areas are relatively small and are situated in the middle of the agricultural landscape. the influence of the scale increase in agriculture and the use of pesticides are absolutely factors that can play a role here. "

and

"What exactly is the reason for the collapse is a mystery. The decline has nothing to do with climate change, and issues such as changes in vegetation around the areas surveyed hardly explain the decline, the team notes in the journal Plos One. Perhaps insecticides with neonicotinoids, such as the much-discussed 'bee venom', are behind it; perhaps it is because fallow fields and ditches disappear due to the intensification of agriculture, De Kroon suggests. 'One of our theories is that the insects are attracted to agricultural areas, where they can then not maintain themselves well. This way, such an agricultural area forms an ecological trap. ' "

I have also heard the argument that we should grow a variation of crops per field because bees need a variation of food to sustain themselves. So one thing farmers have started to do is build nesting aids and small strips of wild flowers around their agricultural fields for bees to eat and live. That's at least something positive.

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#6 Posted by DaVillain- (35508 posts) -

I would hate to see our Honey Bees vanished. Honey Bees are Gardner partners for raising Flowers and making Honey for us all. Spiders are good for killing annoying bugs and the best thing about Spider are, they work for free :P

Overall, I wouldn't exactly be worry about this, Insects are known to producing way more offspring's and as long as Insects are mass breeding, I doubt they will go extinct anytime soon.

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#7 Posted by Jacanuk (18125 posts) -

@qx0d: Well, bees are important so we need to keep them but let´s hope the rest goes away,

Insects are the bain of the earth´s existence.

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#8 Posted by Volsung (261 posts) -

" The decline has nothing to do with climate change, "

Nothing? I'm not a scientist but that seems like a pretty bold claim.

"Experimental heatwaves compromise sperm function and cause transgenerational damage in a model insect"

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#9 Posted by killjepetto (6 posts) -

If humanity wasn't unnatural and terrorizing the planet, flies would gather around fallen fruit.

Humans demonize the fly (and the birds for that matter), for carrying disease, but it would be clean and healthy in environment-friendly world.

Birds, and other animals, are not going extinct becaues they're strong; this is no thanks to humanity, which is full of mean internet-terrorists that pevert any speech about helping their environment.

People need to go careful of the animals, insects and environment.

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#10 Posted by Baconstrip78 (1316 posts) -

I’ll be dead in a century. Sounds like a problem for people who are planning on having grandkids someday.

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#11 Posted by omegaMaster (1193 posts) -

That's great news. Can't stand them. I kill them each time I see one lurking in the house.

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#12 Posted by MrGeezer (59763 posts) -

@qx0d said:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature

https://www.nbc-2.com/story/39942502/massive-insect-decline-could-have-catastrophic-environmental-impact-study-says

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” said Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, who wrote the review with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” he said. Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.

Other scientists agree that it is becoming clear that insect losses are now a serious global problem. “The evidence all points in the same direction,” said Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in the UK. “It should be of huge concern to all of us, for insects are at the heart of every food web, they pollinate the large majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy, recycle nutrients, control pests, and much more. Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects.”

I don't disagree with the conclusion that declining insect numbers are a huge concern. HOWEVER, I think that honesty and factual discussion is important when discussing important issues. Saying things like "the world's insects are hurtling down the path to extinction" is at the very least intentionally misleading.

Again, this is absolutely a HUGE problem, but let's be honest and realistic about the details.

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#13 Posted by Jag85 (13248 posts) -

Insects are becoming less common in the northern hemisphere, but there's still a ton of them in tropical regions.

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#14 Posted by Horgen (119964 posts) -

@Jag85 said:

Insects are becoming less common in the northern hemisphere, but there's still a ton of them in tropical regions.

They are needed in northern hemisphere too though.

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#15 Posted by mumunaro (141 posts) -

It took me 2 weeks to utterly cleanse my house of biscuit bug infestation last month. It was horrible and they were everywhere!

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#16 Edited by mrbojangles25 (43558 posts) -

Well I think the idea has been sensationalized ("Doom! DOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!"), but it's definitely something to worry about. I certainly do not hear crickets like I used to.

I think any new buildings should maximize their garden space; plant flowers and other plants wherever possible. Not only does it look good, but it helps with insects. People will need to grow some balls when it comes to tolerating bugs as well; you don't need to like insects, but you do have to put up with them.

I've always suspected that the end of humanity would be something we never expected or suspected. Not nuclear war, not a meteor or comet, not climate change....but bugs, or disappearing sand, or something else crazy :P

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#17 Posted by comp_atkins (35510 posts) -
@MrGeezer said:
@qx0d said:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature

https://www.nbc-2.com/story/39942502/massive-insect-decline-could-have-catastrophic-environmental-impact-study-says

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” said Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, who wrote the review with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” he said. Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.

Other scientists agree that it is becoming clear that insect losses are now a serious global problem. “The evidence all points in the same direction,” said Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in the UK. “It should be of huge concern to all of us, for insects are at the heart of every food web, they pollinate the large majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy, recycle nutrients, control pests, and much more. Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects.”

I don't disagree with the conclusion that declining insect numbers are a huge concern. HOWEVER, I think that honesty and factual discussion is important when discussing important issues. Saying things like "the world's insects are hurtling down the path to extinction" is at the very least intentionally misleading.

Again, this is absolutely a HUGE problem, but let's be honest and realistic about the details.

to be fair, on an ecosystem timescale, a 2.5% / year decline is fucking FAST

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#18 Posted by Jacanuk (18125 posts) -

@Jag85 said:

Insects are becoming less common in the northern hemisphere, but there's still a ton of them in tropical regions.

Tell that to the millions of spiders, ants and mosquito, flies and other insects that are around during the summer.

If half of what is around during the summer went poof, it would be liberating and a joy. :)

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#19 Posted by TehWaterGoddess (15 posts) -

Well, I do not like insects. Could some1 who knows more about this stuff explain 2 me y its a bad thing?

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#20 Posted by one_plum (6554 posts) -

Please add arachnids in the list too.

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#21 Posted by Volsung (261 posts) -

This is a good addition to our dystopian cyberpunk future though. Someone should start designing synthetic insects.

Synthetic moths for sale: $8999.99, for an extra $2000 you can upgrade to a butterfly.

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#22 Posted by MrGeezer (59763 posts) -

@comp_atkins said:

to be fair, on an ecosystem timescale, a 2.5% / year decline is fucking FAST

Absolutely. But again, we're not talking about ALL insects.

Look at the quote, "More than 40% of insect species are declining". A lot of insect species are highly specialized and that's where a huge portion of the lost biomass is going to come from. What we're not looking at here is an extinction-level event of highly adaptable nuisance species such as freaking mosquitoes and cockroaches. If anything, not being specific about this potentially downplays the level of the problem. That we'll see a massive reduction of insects in general, while seeing a massive upswing in populations of insects that either feed on us, make us sick, or destroy the food that we eat.

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#23 Posted by npiet1 (1945 posts) -

@tehwatergoddess: they are the main source of food for a lot of animals, they eat decaying matter and they help plants reproduces. Without insects the whole food web will collapse, disease will spread and some trees will slowly disappear.

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#24 Edited by RainHHZ (1 posts) -

I don't think that insects will extinct. Of course, we are polluting the planet with those insecticides trying to get rid of them but don't forget that just an ordinary roach can build up a tolerance to almost every poison: https://pestcontrolhacks.com/most-effective-ways-get-rid-of-cockroaches-roaches/ And they can live just everywhere, in the hardest conditions. I think we will die out faster than insects.