An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems,” according to the first global scientific review. More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century. The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.
Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, but the review strongly indicates the crisis is global. The researchers set out their conclusions in unusually forceful terms for a peer-reviewed scientific paper: “The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet. The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanization and climate change are also significant factors. “One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects,” the study says, noting a recent study in Puerto Rico where there was a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years. Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit.
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