Insects could be wiped out within a century - scientists

Urban cockroaches might do well amid a collapse of insect populations globally

Insect rates are declining so quickly across the world, thanks to pesticides and other chemicals, that scientists are predicting a potentially "catastrophic" effect on the planet.

By a large margin, habitat change - deforestation, urbanisation, conversion to farmland - emerged as the biggest cause of insect decline and extinction threat.

The warning was issued in a global review of insect declines, in which the authors called for a dramatic rethinking of agricultural practices and better strategies for cleaning polluted waters.

If insect species losses can not be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind'.

"In 10 years, you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left, and in 100 years you will have none", Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, one of the study's co-authors, told The Guardian.

Scientists believe that intensive agriculture and the heavy use of pesticides are the main drivers of the massive insect loss which may finally lead to many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects starving to death.

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MORE: Pesticide ban could threaten viability of East Anglia's sugar beet industry, farmers told The review, published in the journal Biological Conservation, looked at 73 historical reports on insects from around the world, including studies in the United Kingdom, and found insects ranging from butterflies and bees to dung beetles were among the most affected.

They found evidence for decline in all insect groups reviewed, but said it was most pronounced for butterflies and moths, native bees, beetles and aquatic insects such as dragonflies.

The new study shows 41 percent of insect species have seen steep declines in the past decade, with similar drops forecast for the near future.

What we need to do is to change the way we make food, or we can say our goodbyes to the insects. He added that many species of animals that rely on insects as their main food source could be wiped out, which would only increase pest numbers.

Jake Fiennes, conservation general manager at the Holkham Estate and a member of the National Farmers' Union's environment forum, said: "We can all accept that there has been a decline in insects, whether we gain our information as a result of scientific data or anecdotes", he said. The heavy use of pesticides, climate change and invasive species were also pinpointed as significant causes. As Phys.org explained, insects are responsible for pollinating 75 percent of the 115 most important food crops worldwide.

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