Insect populations have been struggling worldwide, and the situation is known amongst environmental scientists to be dire. Now a collective of more than 70 scientists are calling for urgent global action to curb what conservationists are calling an “unnoticed insect apocalypse.”
In the new “roadmap to insect recovery” published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the international experts outline immediate, mid-term and long-term actions for governments to address the human-caused stress factors that have reduced insect populations, including habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, pollution, over-harvesting and invasive species.
The immediate “no-regrets measures” listed in the study include aggressively curbing planet-heating emissions, phasing out synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, limiting light, water, and noise pollution, preventing the introduction of invasive and alien species, pursuing conservation efforts for vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species, and funding programs targeted at the public, farmers, land managers, policymakers, and conservation workers.
Next, scientists across the globe need to urgently establish which herbivores, detritivores, parasitoids, predators and pollinators are priority species for conservation. The animals are crucial to the healthy functioning of ecosystems and all life, as they recycle nutrients, serve as pollinators and act as food for other wildlife.
For the mid-term, new research is needed to understand which stress factors most significantly drive insect declines. Yet, the paper’s authors beseech governments and entities to act now.
Finally, in the long-term, nations should launch public-private partnerships and sustainable financing initiatives to restore and create insect habitats, and establish an international body "that is accountable for documenting and monitoring the effects of proposed solutions on insect biodiversity in the longer term.”
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third endangered, according to a scientific review published in February 2019. Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist at the U.S.-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and co-author of the recent road map pointed in a statement to the critical state of insect populations worldwide.