Widespread insect die-off could devastate ecosystems worldwide

An Indian farm worker sprays pesticide on a paddy crop near Jalandhar. Pesticide use is a major contributing factor to plummeting insect numbers a recent study has found

Widespread insect die-off could devastate ecosystems worldwide

"In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none", study co-author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, an environmental biologist at the University of Sydney, Australia, told The Guardian.

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.

Of the insects most depleted, butterflies and moths are said to be among the worst hit, while bees and beetles have been reported to be on a rapid decline as well.

Already, more than 40pc of insect species are experiencing a notable decline, with a further third being categorised as endangered.

"Agricultural intensification" as well as the use of pesticides and herbicides are the main factors driving this decline, according to the expert.

The total volume of insects in the world is decreasing by 2.5% a year, a rate that indicates widespread extinctions within a century, the report found.

In their report published in Biological Conservation, scientists point the destructive role of intensive agriculture and pollution, mainly caused by the use of pesticides and fertilisers.

What we need to do is to change the way we make food, or we can say our goodbyes to the insects.

Furthermore, scientist Francisco Sánchez-Bayo states that "if insect species losses can not be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind", while adding that the 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is "shocking".

"Climate change is one of the big reasons we have got to obviously start and tackle climate change properly, to tackle it and also reduce it".

Researchers say the world must change the way it produces food, noting that organic crops had more insects, and refrain from overusing pesticides. Based on the findings of the report, Statista has drawn up this handy - and, frankly, worrying - infographic of insects and their percentage decline over the past decade.

"It's quite plausible that we might end up with plagues of small numbers of pest insects, but we will lose all the wonderful ones that we want".

"Fast-breeding pest insects will probably thrive because of the warmer conditions, because many of their natural enemies, which breed more slowly, will disappear, " the University of Sussex's Professor Dave Goulson, who was not involved in the review, told BBC News.

More research is also badly needed as 99% of the evidence for insect decline comes from Europe and North America with nearly nothing from Africa or South America.

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