Over the past three decades, the insect population has collapsed by 75 percent in nature reserves studied by scientists in Germany. Although the data gathered for this study was from a specific region of the world, it carries implications for a global ecology struggling to adapt to rapidly changing climate and environmental conditions. While many entomophobes may cheer the decrease in numbers of insects, it may have grave consequences for the broader ecosystem. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon,” said Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University, who worked on the research team. “If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”

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Insects comprise approximately two-thirds of all life on Earth, and ecosystems depend on them to pollinate plants and provide food for many animals. Although scientists were previously aware of the decline in specific populations, such as European grassland butterflies, the recent study demonstrates that the scale of the problem is much larger and of greater concern. They are especially concerned because of where this decline was documented. “All these areas are protected and most of them are well-managed nature reserves,” said Caspar Hallmann at Radboud University and part of the research team, “yet, this dramatic decline has occurred.”

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Published in the journal Plos One, the study is based on data gathered by dozens of amateur entomologists who used  special traps that ultimately snagged more than 1,500 samples of insects. When the total weight of samples were measured, scientists noticed an alarming collapse in the population. Although the change in weather patterns over the past three decades may account for some of the decline, it does not tell the whole story. The most fitting explanation may relate to the lack of suitable habitat beyond conservation areas. “Farmland has very little to offer for any wild creature,” said Goulson. “But exactly what is causing their death is open to debate. It could be simply that there is no food for them or it could be, more specifically, exposure to chemical pesticides, or a combination of the two.” To help protect insects, governments, private organizations, and individuals are advised to change their habits. “We need to do less of the things that we know have a negative impact,” said De Kroon, “such as the use of pesticides and the disappearance of farmland borders full of flowers.”

Via the Guardian

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