We are running low on insects, as suggested by a meta-analysis in which it is concluded that we are losing almost 1% of the population year after year. A quarter of all insects on Earth have disappeared over the past three decades. This is not the first time that scientists have warned. And this can be a major problem for biodiversity and the functioning of the planet.
The mataanálisis has been published in Science and collects published data on more than 10,000 species of insects from a total of 1,676 sites worldwide through 166 studies. It is the largest and most comprehensive meta-analysis to date. By analyzing this information, the researchers saw how we are losing insects at the rate of 1% per year, although with many variations depending on the area of the planet.
Not all the bad news, although a drastic reduction in the number of insects is taking place, studies published so far also reveal a increase in freshwater insect population (flies, mosquitoes, dragonflies…). In fact, they grow faster than the bugs that die in land areas, experts believe this is because rivers and streams are cleaner than they were decades ago.
Despite this, the number of insects in the water is much lower than the number of insects on land. They represent only 10% of insect species and do not help the ecosystem as much because, for example, they do not pollinate.
Urbanization and agriculture as main factors
The main declines are occurring in North America and parts of Europe (as we saw in a study on Germany), with some places losing around 4% of the population each year. More precisely urban and suburban areas are the most affected due to the loss of their natural habitat. The construction removes the flora from the place and covers (literally) the soil that the insects need to live.
Another considerable factor is large land of monoculture. Agriculture eliminates the herbs and flowers that make up food and are part of the daily life of insects. Agriculture also involves the use of pesticides which are directly designed to kill insect populations, and they are becoming more deadly every day.
The meta-analysis lacks sufficient data in regions such as South America or Africa. However, the rapid development of these areas with growth areas suggests that the decrease is also occurring in these areas of the planet.
Insects are essential part of natural ecosystems. They are part of the food chain and are also responsible for pollinating plants, breaking down organic matter, and controlling pests.