Researchers have established that climate change and harmful agricultural practices have almost halved the number of insects on the planet. According to a study published in “Nature” by researchers from the University College London (UCL), there was a substantial decline in insect numbers from 1992 to 2012. The researchers reviewed records on over 20,000 insect species worldwide.

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In their review, the researchers found that some areas had experienced up to 49% decrease in insects compared to the natural habitats. They say, this is a cause for concern and the world must accept that humanity poses a threat to the ecosystem.

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Dr. Charlie Outhwaite of UCL and the lead researcher on the study says that losing insects poses more serious threats to the environment than we realize. Further, she says that insects play a key role in sustaining human health at large.

‘Losing insect populations could be harmful not only to the natural environment, where insects often play key roles in local ecosystems, but it could also harm human health and food security, particularly with losses of pollinators,’ said Charlie

On the flip side, the study found that preserving nature could actually help insects thrive. According to Dr. Charlie, the findings now call on us to take urgent actions to protect the environment. The researchers observed that, in areas that were protected from human actions such as farming and settlement, there were more insect species than in other regions.

“Our findings highlight the urgency of actions to preserve natural habitats, slow the expansion of high-intensity agriculture, and cut emissions to mitigate climate change,” she added.

To ensure that insect populations thrive, the researchers are proposing intentional management of land use, especially in agriculture. Dr. Tim Newbold, also of UCL says that protecting natural habitats, especially in areas where farming is practiced could be vital in protecting insect species.

“Careful management of agricultural areas, such as preserving natural habitats near farmland, may help to ensure that vital insects can still thrive,” said Tim

The other proposed solutions include avoiding intensive agricultural practices, planting wide varieties of crops, and retaining edgeways and patches of forests near farmlands among others.

Study researcher, Peter McCann, added: “We need to acknowledge how important insects are for the environment as a whole, and for human health and wellbeing, in order to address the threats we pose to them before many species are lost forever.”

+ Nature