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400,000 insect species face extinction

‘Insect apocalypse’ poses risk to all life on Earth, conservationists warn
Report claims 400,000 insect species face extinction amid heavy use of pesticides,
Guardian,  Damian Carrington Environment editor

 @dpcarrington, Wed 13 Nov 2019 The “unnoticed insect apocalypse” should set alarm bells ringing, according to conservationists, who said that without a halt there will be profound consequences for humans and all life on Earth.

A new report suggested half of all insects may have been lost since 1970 as a result of the destruction of nature and heavy use of pesticides. The report said 40% of the 1million known species of insect are facing extinction.

The analysis, written by one of the UK’s leading ecologists, has a particular focus on the UK, whose insects are the most studied in the world. It said 23 bee and wasp species have become extinct in the last century, while the number of pesticide applications has approximately doubled in the last 25 years.

UK butterflies that specialise in particular habitats have fallen 77% since the mid-1970s and generalists have declined 46%, the report said. There are also knock-on effects on other animals, such as the spotted flycatcher which only eats flying insects. Its populations have dropped by 93% since 1967.

But conservationists said that insect populations can be rescued, by introducing firm targets to cut pesticide use and making urban parks and gardens more wildlife friendly. Scientists said insects are essential for all ecosystems, as pollinators, food for other creatures, and recyclers of nutrients.

“We can’t be sure, but in terms of numbers, we may have lost 50% or more of our insects since 1970 – it could be much more,” said Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, UK, who wrote the report for the Wildlife Trusts. “We just don’t know, which is scary. If we don’t stop the decline of our insects there will be profound consequences for all life on earth [and] for human wellbeing.”……

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.

Insect population collapses have been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, and the first global scientific review, published in February, said widespread declines threaten a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”.

Insects can be helped to recover by “rewilding” urban gardens and parks, Goulson said. “There is potential for a huge network of insect-friendly habitats right across the country. Already a lot of people are buying into the idea that they can make their gardens more wildlife friendly by letting go of control a bit. There are also quite a lot of councils going pesticide free.”

But he said: “The bigger challenge is farming – 70% of Britain is farmland. No matter how many gardens we make wildlife friendly, if 70% of the countryside remains largely hostile to life, then we are not going to turn around insect decline.”……. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/13/insect-apocalypse-poses-risk-to-all-life-on-earth-conservationists-warn

November 14, 2019 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment

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