We are witnessing the largest extinction event on earth since the late Permian… in other words, 250 million years ago.
Over the past 50 years we have reduced Earths wildlife abundance dramatically and many of the species that were once prevalent are now few and far between. Much of our attention is given to large charismatic animals and little is given to the smaller, some say, less attractive animals.
There are around one million known insect species, 41% of which are threatened with extinction. Staggeringly, there are estimated to be another four million insect species that we have yet to discover . Although we are decades away from cataloguing the insect diversity of this planet, it is likely that many species will be lost before we ever recognised they existed.
More recently, evidence suggests that insect abundance has fallen by more than 50% since 1970, yet most people are unaware and have not even noticed that anything has changed. Many may not know but insects play vitally important roles in ecosystem functioning. They provide a food source for other larger animals, pollinate crops and wildflowers, recycle nutrients, control pests, disperse speeds, and clean water by breaking down and filtering organic matter among other things.
The causes of terrestrial and freshwater invertebrate declines are much debated, but include habitat loss and fragmentation, endless exposure to mixtures of pesticides, the spread of non-native insect diseases (within commercial bees), pollution, climate change, invasive species, abstraction and development.
If insect declines are not halted, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will fall apart, with profound consequences for human well-being and all life on Earth. The good thing is, it is not too late to prevent these catastrophic events as few insect species have gone extinct so far and populations can recover quickly.
It may be difficult to disassociate insects with annoyance, bites, stings and the spread of diseases. But do realise insects have a vital role on this earth, without them, many of the animals with widespread popular appeal would have nothing to eat. More worryingly, we could not feed the global human population without pollinating insects.
Let’s secure a sustainable future for insects, wildlife and ourselves. With a few small changes you could really help not only insects but other wildlife in your area. Make your garden wildlife friendly and provide a haven by not using pesticides and planting flowers for pollinators.
Here at chXout we use DNA testing technology for species identification of animal, plant and fungi samples. Get in touch with nature and discover what is lurking in you back garden with our Citizen Science kit – purchase yours here today!