PLUNGING insects numbers threaten to trigger a “catastrophic” global environmental collapse that could spell the end for humanity, a shock study.
More than four in ten bug species could become extinct within the next century, with the total mass of insects on Earth already dropping by a staggering 2.5 per cent every year.
Getty – Contributor Insects like the bumblebee are in sharp decline across the globe
Butterflies, bees, dragonflies and beetles are among the worst hit, with at least a third of species in each group in dangerous decline.
Overuse of pesticides, expanding cities and climate change are to blame, scientists said.
“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, told the Guardian.
Insects are vital to global ecosystems as they pollinate plantlife and provide food for birds, lizards and other animals.
Getty – Contributor Butterflies, bees, dragonflies and beetles are among the worst hit
Getty – Contributor Dragonflies have seen a 37 per cent decline over the past decade
Heavy insect losses could therefore cascade up global food chains, threatening hundreds of species that humans need to survive.
“If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” Dr Sánchez-Bayo said.
Boffins at the universities of Sydney and Queensland and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences led the research.
They combined 73 studies on insects populations carried out over the past 30 years in countries across the globe, including the UK and Europe.
Getty – Contributor Beetles are under severe threat
Results showed that over the last three decades, the total mass of insects on Earth has slumped 2.5 per cent every year.
In total, 41 per cent of insect species are at risk of dying out in the next century, while a further third are endangered.
Figures show that an astonishing 53 per cent of butterfly species have declined over the past decade, while 46 per cent of bees species are dwindling.
Dragonflies have seen a 37 per cent decline, while beetles are at 49 per cent. The worst hit group is the caddisfly, of which 68 per cent of species are in decline.
Getty – Contributor Insects are a vital part of Earth’s ecosystems as they provide food for many animals
Branding the plummeting numbers “shocking”, Dr Sánchez-Bayo said: “It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none.”
Most research into population drops has focussed on vertebrates – animals with spines – like birds, fish or mammals.
The new study reveals that insect numbers are also in freefall, threatening to cause an environmental collapse.
“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,” researchers wrote.
Refer to Source – Alamy Heavy farming and the overuse of pesticides are to blame
Scientists called for immediate action to fix the problem.
“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” the report said.
“The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”
Conservation experts warned that humanity needs to rethink how its uses pesticides and other chemicals.
“A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide,” the report said.
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Scientists recently warned that a mass extinction that will destroy human civilisation will begin in 2100.
Boffins showed in December that the Great Dying, which killed almost all of Earth’s ocean creatures around 250 million years ago, was caused by global warming similar to that seen on our planet today.
Here are three possible ways human civilisation could end as revealed by mathematicians.
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