Insects at Risk of Extinction in the Next Century

Scientists Predict'Catastrophic Consequences for Mankind as Insects Die OutCC0

Insects are necessary to all ecosystems, pollinating plants and serving as food for other animals.

"Fast-breeding pest insects will probably thrive because of the warmer conditions, because many of their natural enemies, which breed more slowly, will disappear", Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex, not involved in the study, tells the BBC's McGrath.

"From our compilation of published scientific reports, we estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline (41 per cent) to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction (10 per cent) eight times higher, confirming previous findings", they wrote.

Pesticides used in an intensive agriculture industry, urban sprawl, and climate change are all factors in insects' decline.

Insects could become extinct in 100 years, scientists have warned.

Their report appears in the publication of Biological Conservation. Lead author Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo said One-third of insect species are classed as endangered.

Declines were not just hitting specialist species, for example those which rely on a particular host plant or only live in specific habitats, but also much more "generalist" species.

But according to the new review, the proportion of insects in decline is now twice as high as that of vertebrates and the insect extinction rate is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles.

"Because insects constitute the world's most abundant and (species-diverse) animal group and provide critical services within ecosystems, such events can not be ignored and should prompt decisive action to avert a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", they wrote.

'Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.

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.

"Climate change is one of the big reasons we have got to obviously start and tackle climate change properly, to tackle it and also reduce it".

40 percent of insect species like bees and ants are now undergoing dramatic rates of decline, according to scientific journal journal, Biological Conservation. Drastically reduce pesticide use and redesign agricultural systems to make them more insect-friendly.

The authors are concerned about the impact of insect decline up along the food chain.

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