Insect Apocalypse: 40% of world species threatened with extinction, report finds
This story was originally published on Newsroom.co.nz and is republished with permission.
Are our insect pollinators doomed to die, taking us with them? The science is patchy but one thing 70 scientists from around the world are clear on is that inaction is unacceptable
Last year dire warnings about the fate of insects made headlines. The insect apocalypse was nigh, creepy crawly armageddon was upon us.
We weren't about to be overrun by insects, the fear was we were losing them and their crop-pollinating benefits.
Many plants need help with pollination and propagation. Insects are by far the most important pollinators, but birds and even lemurs can also transport pollen from one plant to another.
Anecdotes were shared of windscreens, formerly splattered with insect bodies, now cadaver-free. A review searching for scientific papers on insects and including the term 'decline' unsurprisingly found plenty of papers tracking the insect population drop.
The review predicted "dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40 percent of the world's insect species over the next few decades."
It's a review which has drawn a fair amount of criticism.
The truth is more complicated, far murkier, probably less alarming, but still worrying enough to spur 70 scientists from around the world to call for immediate action to stop decline.
The issue is there's a lot that is unknown about insect populations around the world. Trends in land use and habitat destruction are clear, but without data it's a stretch to predict exactly just how many insect species are at risk.
However, while scientists secure the funding to gather data and do the work required, there's a chance species could vanish. This is why the roadmap the scientists have created includes steps which can be taken now, while scientists work to increase knowledge.
University of Waikato lecturer Chrissie Painting is one of the scientists in the group and helped add a Southern Hemisphere voice to the call for action.
The global roadmap the group created includes a list of "no-regret solutions" as immediate actions to take while data is gathered.
"You can do these things, they're going to have benefits, whether or not there was already decline and alongside these things we can start actually doing the research to find out what some of the most pressing problems are," Painting says.
The immediate solutions include an end to pesticide use, an increase in diversity of agriculture, and a reduction in light and water pollution.