Insect population faces 'catastrophic' collapse: Sydney research

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Many insects that are beneficial to other animals and humans are declining up to eight times faster than other mammals or birds.

Ultimately, if huge numbers of insects disappear, they will be replaced but it will take a long, long time. Pollution, particularly the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers, is also a major contributor to the dwindling number of insects around the world.

We have recently seen how the insect population simply collapsed in Germany and Puerto Rico, but some studies show that the crisis went global.

Pesticides used in an intensive agriculture industry, urban sprawl, and climate change are all factors in insects' decline.

The pace of insect decline appears to be the same in tropical and temperate climates, though there is far more data from North America and Europe than the rest of the world.

Because of the importance of insects to natural systems and other wildlife, "such events can not be ignored and should prompt decisive action to avert a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems", the scientists warned. The loss of any large insect population will throw an ecosystem into disarray, ultimately affecting every other species, including apex predators like humans.

Scientists are making their doomsday prediction after reviewing 73 historical reports of insects around the world, including studies in the United Kingdom.

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Meanwhile lead author of the study Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo has outlined three reasons for the "dramatic rates of decline" in insect species.

"It is very rapid", Sánchez-Bayo told The Guardian.

The world's insect population could be entirely erased by the end of the century, according to new research, but which species are most threatened?

"It's not just about bees, or even about pollination and feeding ourselves - the declines also include dung beetles that recycle waste and insects like dragonflies that start life in rivers and ponds", said Matt Shardlow from United Kingdom campaigners Buglife.

Insects play a profoundly important role in Earth's ecosystems.

"It is becoming increasingly obvious our planet's ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these terrible trends" Matt Shardlow of the United Kingdom advocacy group Buglife tells Matt McGrath at the BBC. He added that many species of animals that rely on insects as their main food source could be wiped out, which would only increase pest numbers. Based on the findings of the report, Statista has drawn up this handy - and, frankly, worrying - infographic of insects and their percentage decline over the past decade.

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