Scientists shocked by 75 percent decline in flying insect numbers

Brandon Parsons
October 20, 2017

The researchers, led by Caspar Hallmann of Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands, said it was unclear why the numbers in Germany have declined so sharply, but concluded that neither landscape nor climate change are likely to be the cause.

"If you see these sort of dramatic declines in protected areas it makes me worry that this (trend) could be everywhere", she said.

Check out the entire study here.

Flying insects in 63 German nature reserves have decreased by 76 per cent since 1989 and by more than 80 per cent at the height of summer.

By measuring the weight of the insect catch - known as the biomass - from each of the Malaise traps, researchers were able to ascertain the drop in insect numbers. "The big surprise is that it is also happening in adjacent nature reserves". According to the results, there is a 76 percent decline and mid-summer 82 percent decline in flying insect biomass in the 27 years researchers conducted the study.

Johannes Steidle, ecologist at the University of Hohenheim further pointed to the worrying circumstance that all probes in the study were taken in nature reserves.

Latty says the importance of insects - which make up around 70% of all animal species - is underestimated.

The study found that the decline in insects occurred regardless of habitat type, and changes in weather patterns, land use and habitat don't explain the overall decline. According to Caspar Hallmann (Radboud University), who performed the statistical analyses, "All these areas are protected and a lot of them are managed nature reserves".

While noting they had not "exhaustively analyzed the climatic variables" that may have impacted populations, such as "prolonged droughts, or lack of sunshine especially in low temperatures", they also suggested "agricultural intensification (e.g. pesticide usage, year-round tillage, increased use of fertilizers and frequency of agronomic measures) that we could not incorporate in our analyses, may form a plausible cause".

Insects are essential for life on Earth as they act as pollinators and prey for other species.

"The first step is acknowledging that we have a problem, and working to correct that - how do we design our agriculture to encourage insects?".

Healthy insect populations are crucial to the functioning of wider ecosystems, ensuring the pollination of flowers amongst others.

"There's so much going on out there, it's a struggle to convince people that insects are important".

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