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McKirdy writes: "A new scientific study has found 'dramatic' and 'alarming' declines in insect populations in areas in Germany, which researchers say could have far-reaching consequences for the world's crop production and natural ecosystems."

United States crops are 80% dependent on the honeybee for pollination. (photo: iStock)
United States crops are 80% dependent on the honeybee for pollination. (photo: iStock)

New Study Suggests Insect Populations Have Declined by 75% Over Three Decades

By Euan McKirdy, CNN

19 October 17


new scientific study has found "dramatic" and "alarming" declines in insect populations in areas in Germany, which researchers say could have far-reaching consequences for the world's crop production and natural ecosystems.

The study, published on Wednesday in peer-reviewed journal PLOS One has found that, in German nature reserves, flying insect populations have declined by more than 75% over the duration of the 27-year study.

"The flying insect community as a whole... has been decimated over the last few decades," said the study, which was conducted by Researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands and the Entomological Society Krefeld in Germany.

"Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services."

Co-author Caspar Hallman said he and his colleagues were "very, very surprised" by the results.

"These are not agricultural areas, these are locations meant to preserve biodiversity, but still we see the insects slipping out of our hands," he told CNN.

'Could be everywhere'

Entomologists have long had evidence of the decline of individual species, said Tanya Latty, a research and teaching fellow in entomology at Sydney University's School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

However, few studies have taken such a broad view of entire insect populations, she says.

"This study lumps all flying insects together," she said, which gives researchers a more accurate picture of the overall decline.

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

"There's no reason to think this isn't happening everywhere." Hallman said he hoped the study could be "repeated in other parts of the world."

Worrying decline

The long-term study used Malaise traps -- a sophisticated kind of insect net which catches a wide variety of insects -- set up in 63 German nature protection areas over the course of 27 years.

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 study reported a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study. "We show that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type," the study says.

Latty says it's particularly worrying that the study recorded the declines in protected areas, meaning that for agricultural or urban areas the trend could be even more pronounced.

The report suggests climate change, loss of insect habitats and potentially the use of pesticides, are behind the alarming decline. Latty says it's unlikely there's one "smoking gun," but rather a combination of contributing factors.


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

"We don't often think about insects other than 'eww, an insect.' But these are the organisms running the world.

"Insects pollinate the crops we eat, they contribute to pest control, we'd have to use more pesticide. They're even crucial in waste control -- most of the waste in urban areas is taken care of by ants and cockroaches." Insects, she says, are "crucial" to biodiversity, and "we exist because of biodiversity."

Knock-on effects

Species who rely on insects as their food source -- and, up the food chain, the predators which eat these animals -- are likely to suffer from these declines. Pollination of both crops and wild plants are also affected, as is nutrient cycling in the soil.

Indeed, "ecosystem services provided by wild insects have been estimated at $57 billion annually in the USA," the study says, quoting an earlier study.

Some 80% of wild plants rely on insects for pollination; 60% of birds rely on insects as a food source, according to the study.

Latty says she hopes the decline is reversible.

"The first step is acknowledging that we have a problem, and working to correct that -- how do we design our agriculture to encourage insects? It could be something as simple as growing wildflowers along the edges of fields." She says we also need to improve people's education around insect populations -- "that insects are important, absolutely crucial to our survival," and to deal with pests sensibly.

"There's so much going on out there, it's a struggle to convince people that insects are important. We've probably only identified only 10% of insects and some are going extinct before we can even name them." your social media marketing partner


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+13 # librarian1984 2017-10-19 09:05
I love insects. Almost became an entomologist. I'm sure we'll find that Monsanto is responsible for much of this -- and that they knew about the consequences long ago, in the same way Exxon knew about global warming and the tobacco companies knew about lung cancer. There is even some evidence that pesticides may cause autism.

I remember the article years ago that showed if corporations were people they'd be sociopaths. The evidence is so pervasive, that the people who have power are not benign. They are not even neutral. At this point citizens face not only predatory capitalism but a government that is no longer interested in representing us or protecting US.

They are addicted to power and wealth and we are expendable, useful only as long as we have something they want. This attitude may have started with the GOP but now that the DP is GOP-lite we have very few allies in government, industry or law enforcement.

I don't think most of us believe our own government could be this hostile toward citizens but there is ample evidence by now. We need an intervention or we need to sweep the sociopaths out. We've got to find the will to fight them, even in our own party.

It makes me weep to think about what this country could be right now if our leaders hadn't decided to pursue American empire.
-5 # RMF 2017-10-19 17:23
If you took the time to watch the Senate Votearama on the 2018 Budget Resolution (and Tax Reform) you would see that it is only the Dem Party standing between and defending American workers against the budgetary assault by the GOP plutocrats (e.g., Lee Amendment to expand deficit-neutral tax cut fund on repeal of Obamacare, or the Paul Amendment to repeal Obamacare in total WITHOUT Block Grants.)

While some here want single payer at the expense of all other things, and viciously attack the Dem Party for not waving the magic wand and making it happen, it remains an undeniable fact that Obamacare (though not single payer, but merely a step in getting there) is vastly more beneficial than anything the GOP might come up with as a substitute, or NOT as in the case of the Paul Amendment. This "my way or the highway" approach to progressive politics not only ignores campaign realities but also plays right into the hands of the GOP plutocrats. So great job if that was the object of your constant anti-Dem Party proselytizing.
+1 # librarian1984 2017-10-19 20:40
It's not better than a Republican plan .. It IS a Republican plan, thought up at the Heritage Fdn, implemented by Mitt Romney and designed to enrich private insurance companies.

It's a waste of time and energy to defend and 'fix' ACA. We should fight for Enhanced Medicare for All, which would cover the 30+ million not covered by ObamaCare.

Sanders' plan covers dental and vision too. THAT is what we need, not some warmed over GOP boondoggle.

The Democraps don't stand between us and ruin -- they are part of the problem. Both parties represent Wall Street, Big Pharma and the fossil fuel industry.

I don't want single payer at the expense of all other things. I want it FIRST. And then I want peace and a green economy amd wealth equity, good schools, clean water and justice.

Read the article about purging the DNC, or the ones about Democrats sabotaging Sanders. THAT is what I attack in the DP. I don't criticize them for not making those things happen but for NOT EVEN TRYING.

It's great that you're so easily satisfied. The DP must LOVE you. Go ahead. Sneer at 32 million Americans who don't have healthcare, or millions more underinsured, or the people who've had to declare bankruptcy because of medical emergencies, or the families of people who've died while the DP twiddles their thumbs.

Oh, am I playing into GOP hands? Or are you an apologist for the establishment, two corporate parties that want us to be docile and compliant?
0 # RMF 2017-10-23 12:47
So you think Obamacare is no better than GOP REPEAL of Obamacare?

Where do you come up with that kind of logic? Or are you unaware, for example, that public insurance covering about half of US births will be deep-sixed under the GOP Obamacare repeal plan. And what about pre-existing conditions, also on the GOP chopping block?

So I ask again where do you come up with the twisted logic that Obamacare is no better than the GOP substitute -- from the Kremlin perhaps?.
+5 # oldoilieotto 2017-10-19 13:10
In late May and early June, I had to travel by car from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee and back west across the south. I cleaned a grand total of two insects from my windshield while driving 3500 miles. Folks, this ain't normal.
+1 # bread and butter 2017-10-19 19:03
Plant a garden of native plants, pollinator food sources, caterpillar food sources, and as many species as possible.

Also, stop spraying stuff on it.

It's not super-simple. If you have a back yard and you're afraid of your neighbors' reactions, do your good deed in the back yard.

I have a "permaculture" in my back yard, and it's awesome. It's not enough to live on. Anybody who thinks it could be, either owns a LOT of land, or is living in a fantasy world. But, it's enough to supply some form of food, more days than not, through most of the year.

If you live in zone 3, or somewhere dry, like the southwest, you'll never get quite that much out of it. But you'd be amazed how beautiful and economical it can be.

Since both parties are immune to political pressure from the left, we don't have a lot of other choices available in the political spectrum.
+2 # bread and butter 2017-10-19 19:13
I have Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes) in my back yard.

-They're 12 feet tall by September.
-They produce a tuber that tastes like a cross between a horse chestnut, and an apple, and can be eaten raw, as well as stir fried, or put in soups.
-The harvest season is the middle of winter.
-The plant is AGGRESSIVELY easy to grow. It DEFIES you to even TRY to kill it. If you TRIED to eat all the tubers, you'd probably miss enough to produce next years' crop.
-It's COVERED in aphids, specific to it, and totally harmless to other plants. This plant is such a monster that it LAUGHS at the aphids.
-However, these aphids attract HUGE numbers of preying mantises, lady bugs, lacewings, and predatory (uncommon looking) wasps.
-These predatory insects, now patrol your entire yard for any trouble makers. So your roses, etc. can look better without spraying poison on them.
-The plant is totally native to the U.S.
-You can buy the tubers on line for about $10 and get started. By next year, you'll have an intimidating patch of these monsters in your own back yard.
-The flowers are similar to sunflowers.
-The soil around the plant looks more bio-diverse than before.

Just an example. But if you want to scare the hell out of your neighbors with your very own Triffid, and have a plant that can do EVERYTHING, check it out.
+1 # librarian1984 2017-10-20 08:21
Thanks! I live in the city and have to grow everything in containers but I do my best and am always thrilled when the bees start showing up in March and April. I plant lots of wildflowers and native species but have never tried the Jerusalem artichoke -- but I will now. Thank you.
+1 # librarian1984 2017-10-20 08:27
PS I absolutely HATE grass lawns. Used to be a big point of contention with my ex-husband. We'd visit ours every weekend so I could bargain and plead for the plants he called 'weeds'. When we first bought the place it had been 'neglected' and hundreds of butterflies could be seen on the plot. It was breathtaking.

Once it was mowed and seeded and treated with chemicals it became an insect desert.

I remember one neighbor, who was a knowledgeable outdoorsman, telling us how miraculously safe Monsanto's Roundup was -- perfectly safe around kids!
+1 # Wise woman 2017-10-19 23:42
Between Monsanto, Exxon, BP, etc., our Planet is in its death throes. Since only money talks for these people, years ago I decided to boycott as many of them as possible. If large numbers of Americans did the same thing, we could bring these corporations down. How to do that? I guess social media would be the place to start.
0 # Tonz 2017-11-03 18:51
And it will continue with the self righteous egotistical human behaviour until we discover that mother nature is our only future. All life has to be respected. Even the dirt we walk on.

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