Insects are dying off at record rates — an ominous sign we’re in the middle of a 6th mass extinction


Roughly 40% of the world’s insect species are in decline, a new study shows.
The die-offs are happening primarily because insects are losing their habitats due to farming and urbanization. The use of pesticides and fertilizers is also to blame, as is climate change.
The study’s authors warn that the repercussions of this loss of Earth’s insects could catastrophic.
The rapid shrinking of insect populations is also a sign that the planet is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction.

Somehow, it’s easier to be concerned about wolves, sea turtles, and White rhinos dying off than it is to feel remorse over vanishing bugs.

But the loss of insects is a dire threat — one that could trigger a “catastrophic collapse of Earth’s ecosystems,” a new study warns.

The research, the first global review of its kind, looked at 73 historical reports on insect declines around the world and found that the total mass of all insects on the planets is decreasing by 2.5% per year.

If this trend continues unabated, the Earth might not have any insects at all come 2119.

“In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none,” Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, a study co-author and researcher at the University of Sydney, told the Guardian

That’s a big problem, since insects are food sources for countless bird, fish, and mammal species. Pollinators like bees and butterflies also perform a crucial role in fruit, vegetable, and nut production.

Insects are going extinct 8 times faster than mammals, birds, and reptiles

Sánchez-Bayo and his co-authors focused their analysis on insects in European and North American countries. They estimated that 41% of insect species are in decline, 31% are threatened (according to criteria set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature), and 10% are going locally extinct.

That extinction rate is eight times faster than the observed pace of extinction for mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The study suggests that bee species in the UK, Denmark, and North America have taken major hits — bumblebees, honey bees, and wild bee species are all declining. In the US, the number of honey bee colonies dropped from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million just six decades later.

Moths and butterflies are also disappearing across Europe and the US. Between 2000 and 2009 alone, the UK lost 58% of butterfly species on farmed land.

Dragonflies, mayflies, and beetles appear to be dying off as well.

When looking at all animal populations planet-wide (not just insects), according to a 2017 study, the Earth appears to be undergoing a process of “biological annihilation.” That analysis estimated that “as much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth with us are already gone.”

This rapid decline in global biodiversity is sometimes called the “sixth extinction,” since it’s the sixth time in the history of life on Earth that the planet’s fauna has experienced a major collapse in numbers.

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Source:: Business Insider


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