Collapse in flying insect numbers points to 'ecological Armageddon'

21 October, 2017, 01:03 | Author: Nina Hammond
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A decline in the population of flying insects in Germany could also represent a threat to neighbor countries, but Hallmann believes it could be even worse. "Many of these preserves are islands surrounded by farmland, which may act as a sink for insects, resulting in a steady flow out from these lands", says study author and ecologist Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. Ecologists from Radboud University together with German and English colleagues published these findings in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on October 18.

"This is the first study that looked into the total biomass of flying insects and it confirms our worries", co-author Caspar Hallmann, from the Radboud University in The Netherlands, told BBC.

It then appears that plants, flying insects, and many birds - all of which have lives that are intertwined within their ecosystems - are decreasing in species diversity, if not in other respects. "This decrease has always been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought". The annual average fell by 76 percent over the 27 year period.

"As one of the few studies assessing overall biomass this study is a useful complement to the larger set of studies on specific groups of insects", writes John Losey, an entomologist at Cornell University in NY, in an email to The Scientist.

The data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany, but researchers note that the data has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture.

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In the study, researchers conducted a "census" 60 nature reserves created in Germany over the past century. Over the years, scientists have captured fewer and fewer insects.

All of the natural preserves are lowlands regions, islands amid agricultural lands and human-populated areas.

Dr Lynn Dicks, from the University of East Anglia, UK, who is not connected with the study, said the paper provides new evidence for "an alarming decline" that many entomologists have suspected for some time.

Researchers are concerned because insects are important pollinators and also a key part of the food chain, serving as meals for birds and other small creatures. "But the 75 percent decline reported here sends a clear call for immediate action". We need to do less of the things that we know have a negative impact, such as the use of pesticides and prevent the disappearance of farmland borders full of flowers.



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