A silent crisis that has gone somewhat unnoticed, but alarming declines in insect populations and biodiversity are putting some ecosystems at risk.
The concern is global and the evidence is conclusive. All over the world we are seeing a decline not only in the number of individual insects, but also in their diversity.
At least these are the main conclusions drawn by the team of scientists led by Professor Florian Menzel from the Institute for Molecular and Orgasmic Evolution at Johannes Gutenberg University. “We are witnessing a global decline in insect populations, so we decided it was appropriate to edit and publish a special issue with the aim of not only documenting this decline, but also to better understand its causes and consequences .
The editorial Mengele cites, published by the Royal Society in the specialized journal Biology Letters, includes two opinion articles, 10 temporal analyzes covering ranges from 10 to 120 years, and two studies focused on the presence of insects in their ecosystems.
Due to which insects are disappearing in the world
The main reasons for this worrying trend are land use, climate change and the spread of invasive animal species as a result of human trade. “However, despite the fact that these factors are at the root of the problem, in view of our results we have been able to verify how they feed on each other,” says the researcher.
For example, human-damaged ecosystems are more vulnerable to climate change, and so are their insect communities. Furthermore, invasive species can easily become established in habitats damaged by human land use and displace native species. Thus, while many insect species become extinct or become extinct, fewer, including invasive species, thrive and thrive, leading to increased homogeneity of insect communities across habitats.
Insect, the weakest link in the chain
According to the authors, the most specialized insect species are the ones that suffer the most, while the more generalist species are the ones that survive. “That’s why we’re now finding more insects capable of living almost anywhere, while species that require specific habitats are in decline,” Menzel noted.
The consequences of this pattern are numerous and generally detrimental to ecosystems. An example of this can be seen in how a decrease in the diversity of bumblebees has resulted in a decrease in the number of plants that rely on these species for their pollinations; Something that is very worrying because, in general terms, a decrease in insect biodiversity threatens the general stability of ecosystems.
“This reduction in species means that there are fewer insects able to pollinate plants and control pests,” explain the researchers. “And, of course, less food availability for the organisms that feed on these insects and plants, whether they be other insects, birds, reptiles and even large mammals.”
The world’s insects and moths are disappearing, what is the alternative
But despite the situation, in his editorial; Conducted in collaboration with biologist Nadja Simmons and Professor of Forest Entomology Martin Gosner, Menzel suggests we can respond to the threats facing insect communities today.
Thus, for future research on insect degradation; The researchers advocate a specialized approach in which standardized techniques are used to monitor insect diversity across different habitats and countries. and that it places particular emphasis on regions of the world in which the status and composition of their populations are still unknown.
They also propose the creation of a network of interconnected nature reserves so that species can move from one habitat to another. Thus, for example, less heat tolerant insects may move from areas affected by extreme temperatures due to global warming to other cooler areas or altitudes where they can subsist.
“In addition, we need measures to reduce the spread of invasive plant and animal species through our globalized trade and tourism,” Menzel continues. “A problem that has become extremely acute in recent decades,” he concluded.