by Alex Pietrowski
Researchers are feverishly working to understand the global die off of the world’s bee species, and have linked colony collapse disorder to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides along with other common agrichemicals. As it turns out, the impact of modern industrial agriculture and widespread chemical contamination of our environment is not just affecting bees, but also contributing to the loss of all insects, and some scientists believe we are moving in the direction of mass extinction.
Several studies by entomologists in recent years support this notion and raise the flag for greater concern. German researchers with the Krefeld Entomological Association have since 1989 been conducting an annual experiment measuring the volume of summer insects in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Trapping migratory and mating insects in the wild has proven there is indeed a significant reduction in populations of many species of invertebrates.
“The average biomass of insects caught between May and October has steadily decreased from 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds) per trap in 1989 to just 300 grams (10.6 ounces) in 2014.” [Source]
A decline this noteworthy should be of great concern for anyone interested in the future of food production and the survival of the ecosystem as a whole, as insects are not only needed for pollination of many staple food crops, they also provide food for many animals and birds, who would follow bugs into extinction.
“The decline is dramatic and depressing and it affects all kinds of insects, including butterflies, wild bees, and hoverflies.” – Martin Sorg, an entomologist from the Krefeld Entomological Association
Additionally, another recent study conducted by researchers from theTechnical University of Munich and the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt supports and substantiates previous research. Observing a nature reserve in the Bavarian city of Regensburg scientists found that, “the number of recorded butterfly and Burnet moth species has declined from 117 in 1840 to 71 in 2013,” a large enough decrease to at least suggest that conservation efforts thus far have failed to contribute to the preservation of insect species.
The Frankfurt study also indicated, as a cause for such decline, the harmful, ongoing effects of the overuse of nitrogen based fertilizers and chemical pesticides which are being used in ever greater quantities around the world, produced and promoted by chemical giants like Cargill, DuPont and the globally despised Monsanto.
“These data on species composition changes and the general trends of modifications may reflect effects from climate change and atmospheric nitrogen loads, as indicated by the ecological characteristics of host plant species and local changes in habitat configuration with increasing fragmentation.” [Source]
Furthermore, another study conducted in 2014 documented a worldwide decline in insect and invertebrate populations, reinforcing concern that this issue is not limited to any specific geographical region.
“By combining data from the few comprehensive studies that exist, lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, an ecologist at Stanford University, developed a global index for invertebrate abundance that showed a 45 percent decline over the last four decades. Dirzo points out that out of 3,623 terrestrial invertebrate species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN] Red List, 42 percent are classified as threatened with extinction.” [Source]
Seeking to identify the cause for such rapid declines in insect populations, a survey conducted in 2012 by the Zoological Society of London shows a staggering 45% decline in invertebrate abundance in the last four decades.
“Rodolfo Dirzo, an ecologist at Stanford University, developed a global index for invertebrate abundance that showed a 45 percent decline over the last four decades. Dirzo points out that out of 3,623 terrestrial invertebrate species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN] Red List, 42 percent are classified as threatened with extinction.” [Source]
The importance of the role of insects in the global ecosystem can not be understated, as ecological collapse starts form the bottom up. Geoff Boxshall, Secretary of Zoological Society of London sums it up well here:
“Invertebrates are one of the essential foundations of healthy ecosystems that we depend on: almost every marine fi sh that forms part of the human food chain will have fed on invertebrates at some time during its development, for example. We directly consume invertebrates, such as shellfish, or their products, such as honey, but our awareness of the importance of invertebrates has generally been low, even though we rely on invertebrates to pollinate our crops, to reprocess our waste, and to deliver a multitude of other services. This situation is now changing and research has also highlighted the importance of invertebrates as regulators of ecosystem processes.” [Source]
Sadly, the burden of changing this falls squarely on the shoulders of global industry leaders, however, as individuals we can help to affect change by altering our buying habits, choosing to support organic food producers, and by creating healthy habitats for bees and other insects in our neighborhoods and communities.
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