Insects have declined by 50% in parts of world because of human activity, study shows

Insect ecosystems are being pushed toward collapse in some parts of the world because of agriculture and warming temperatures.


Researchers analyzed data from a 20-year period for more than 6,000 locations and studied nearly 18,000 insect species, including butterflies, moths, dragonflies, grasshoppers and bees. They concluded that in areas with low-intensity agriculture, less climate warming, and a nearby natural habitat, insects only declined by 7%, compared to the 63% decrease in areas with less natural habitat cover. Many insects rely on plants for shade during sweltering days — the loss of nearby natural habitats could leave them more exposed and vulnerable to warming temperatures. And as climate change advances, scientists say these natural buffers may become less effective.
Outhwaite told CNN there are things we can do at an individual level to help stave off this crisis — planting more native species and wildflowers, reducing pesticides used in gardens and even limiting the frequency of lawn mowing. “And then, thinking a little bit more broadly about perhaps protecting insects in other areas, it’s probably a good idea to think about where the foods that we are buying are being sourced from,” Outwaite said. “So if they’re being sourced from tropical countries, there’s probably going to be a high impact on biodiversity there.”
She also noted that governments have a large role to play in recognizing the impact of trade and food production, and could try to not source food “from areas which are implementing deforestation.”
“I think people are becoming more aware now that biodiversity and insects in particular are at risk, but we haven’t quite got them into the thoughts and thought processes” that would result in protective action, Outhewaite said.
A recent UN report on adapting to the climate crisis underscored how the world’s ecosystems are very much connected to human systems. And unless the planet slashes heat-trapping emissions, those systems will continue to see major losses in biodiversity — particularly insects.
“Whether these remaining insects can continue to support ecosystem functioning, or whether they will eventually be lost themselves is still an open question,” Oliver said. “Under the precautionary principle, however, it would be best to act now so we don’t ever find out about ecosystem collapse by experiencing it.”

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