New study points to alarming drop in flying insect populations

23 Oct 2017


A new study points to rapidly declining insect populations, which have decreased about 76 per cent in nearly 30 years.

Researchers from Germany recently conducted studies, published in PLOS One, to determine how much populations had declined and why.

The scientists measured the total flying insect biomass, the weight of the insect catch, by using tent-like nets called Malaise traps, deployed across 63 nature protection areas in Germany over the course of 27 years.

On analysis of the results, they found that flying insect biomass had fallen 76 per cent and up to 82 per cent in the summers during the time of the study.

In fact, according to the scientists, their findings suggest ''the entire flying insect community has been decimated over the last few decades.''

The researchers found that the drop occurred regardless of the habitat type, but changes in weather, land use and habitat characteristic were not the reason.

The unknown explanation apart, researchers point out that the dip is ''alarming'' as the disappearance of ''field margins and new crop protection'' have both been associated with insect decline.

''Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services,'' the study read.

"The widespread insect biomass decline is alarming, ever more so as all traps were placed in protected areas that are meant to preserve ecosystem functions and biodiversity," the authors said, Associated Press reported.

The drop in airborne insect numbers over Germany was higher than the global estimated insect decline of 58 pe rcent between 1970 and 2012.

The research was led by Caspar Hallmann of Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

"Although lower numbers of some pest insects might be welcome news, the loss of pollinators, beneficial insects and of food for insect-eaters such as birds and bats will have ecosystem-wide consequences," said David Inouye, an ecologist who was not involved in the study, Associated Press reported.

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