Insect declines and why they matter

Bumble bee. Photo by Mick DrydenInsects in trouble

From The Wildlife Trusts

We’re facing a global biodiversity crisis, with many species declining at an alarming rate. Animals and plants that were once common are now scarce, and insects are no exception. Recent evidence suggests that insect abundance may have declined by 50% or more since 1970, but insect declines are not as well studied as those in larger animals, like birds and mammals. The best data we have in the UK and Channel Islands is for butterflies and moths (see Jersey here and report 2004-2013), which show a broad decline. You can read more in The Wildlife Trusts’ new report about our disappearing insects Insect declines and why they matter.

The bulk of all animal life, whether measured by biomass, numerical abundance or numbers of species, is comprised of invertebrates such as insects, spiders, worms and so on. These innumerable little creatures are far more important for the functioning of ecosystems than the large animals that tend to attract most of our attention. Insects are food for numerous larger animals including birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and they perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, pest control and nutrient recycling.

There have been several recent scientific reports describing the rapid decline of insects at a global scale, and these should be a cause of the gravest concern (summarised here). These studies suggest that, in some places, insects may be in a state of catastrophic population collapse. We do not know for sure whether similar reductions in overall insect abundance have happened in the UK. The best UK data are for butterflies and moths which are broadly in decline, particularly in farmland and in the south. UK bees and hoverflies have also shown marked range contractions. The causes of insect declines are much debated, but almost certainly include habitat loss, chronic exposure to mixtures of pesticides, and climate change. The consequences are clear; if insect declines are not halted, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will collapse, with profound consequences for human wellbeing.

The good news is that it is not too late; few insects have gone extinct so far, and populations can rapidly recover.

We urgently need to stop all routine and unnecessary use of pesticides and start to build a nature recovery network by creating more and better connected, insect friendly habitat in our gardens, towns, cities and countryside.

Only by working together can we address the causes of insect decline, halt and reverse them, and secure a sustainable future for insect life and for ourselves.

This report summarises some of the best available evidence of insect declines and proposes a comprehensive series of actions that can be taken at all levels of society to recover their diversity and abundance.

But it’s not too late. Insect populations can recover rapidly if given the chance. To bring about this recovery, we have to make more space for insects. Gardens can be a haven for wildlife, helping connect up wild places in our wider landscape, creating a Nature Recovery Network that enables nature to live alongside us. Examples of how you can help can be found here and Jersey and Guernsey’s Pollinator Project.

The full Wildlife Trusts report Insect declines and why they matter can be downloaded here

 

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