'Ecological Armageddon': Warnings from Scientists as Flying Insects Disappear

21 October, 2017, 01:04 | Author: Earnest Huff
  • Germany Sees Drastic Decrease in Insects

While it is well documented that butterflies and bees have been disappearing in Europe and North America, the study in PLOS ONE is the first to document that flying insects in general have decreased by more than three-quarters across Germany since 1989.

For the long-term study, researchers and entomologists set traps on nature reserves across Germany and collected data on insect populations and possible reasons for their decline, NBC News said. Researchers believe that insect populations are becoming trapped on nature reserves surrounded by inhospitable farmland regularly doused with pesticides.

"Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth", Dave Goulson, a biologist at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and a co-author of the new study, said in a statement.

"This confirms what everybody's been having as a gut feeling - the windscreen phenomenon where you squash fewer bugs as the decades go by", said Caspar Hallmann of Radboud University in The Netherlands. Insects make up about 70 percent of all animal species and pollinate crops, contribute to pest control and are important to waste control, the researcher added.

"All these areas are protected and majority are managed nature reserves". The annual average fell by 76 percent over the 27 year period.

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The meticulous sampling of flying insects over so many sites and so many years yielded a dataset that is unique in the world, de Kroon told Seeker.

The scientists are now investigating sites in the Netherlands to determine better how pesticides are impacting insect populations, and how those losses are affecting insectivorous bird species.

"If total flying insect biomass is genuinely declining at this rate [about 6% per year], it is extremely concerning", she said. "This decrease has always been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought".

"The decline in insect biomass, being evident throughout the growing season, and irrespective of habitat type or landscape configuration, suggests large-scale factors must be involved", the team wrote. "Now, we want to dig deeper into particular groups of species, if not all of them, that are affected and what the consequences are for pollination, nutrient cycling, and species such as birds that rely on insects for food", says de Kroon.

In the study, researchers conducted a "census" 60 nature reserves created in Germany over the past century.

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