Collapse in flying insect numbers points to 'ecological Armageddon'

20 October, 2017, 00:56 | Author: Keith Rowe
  • Insects within alcohol Malaise trapENTOMOLOGICAL SOCIETY KREFELD

"This decrease has always been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought", Hallmann said in a statement.

The finding has shocked scientists, with one expert describing it as "ecological armageddon" - which could have knock-on effects for the environment and human beings.

Three quarters of bees, butterflies and other flying insects have disappeared from nature reserves in only 25 years in what scientists fear is a sign of "ecological Armageddon".

"The flying insect community as a whole. has been decimated over the last few decades", said the study, which was conducted by Researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands and the Entomological Society Krefeld in Germany. Vaguely resembling a mesh tent, the traps act like a funnel, and as insects collide with the trap's wall, they fly upwards and are directed into a cylinder where they are captured. After 27 years, the total average weight has been declined by more than 75 percent.

"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.


The researchers chose to investigate flying insects in particular because, in Germany, out of the approximately 33,000 insect species that are present, over 90 percent are those that fly. The midsummer loss during the 27-year-period was as high as 82 percent.

"All these areas are protected and majority are managed nature reserves". Prior research further shows insect-eating birds numbers have dramatically declined throughout Western Europe. "But exactly what is causing their death is open to debate". The weather might explain numerous fluctuations within the season and between the years, but it doesn't explain the rapid downward trend.

Researchers can only speculate about the possible causes.

Latty says it's particularly worrying that the study recorded the declines in protected areas, meaning that for agricultural or urban areas the trend could be even more pronounced. The researchers hope that these findings will be seen as a wake-up call and prompt more research into the causes and support for long-term monitoring. "But we also have to work hard at extending our nature reserves and decreasing the ratio of reserves that border agricultural areas".

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