Insects: Researchers outline how mass extinction could be averted

Insects are doing badly – studies have shown this several times in recent years. Now 70 researchers from 21 countries have developed a plan for how to stop or at least mitigate the large death. In the past 27 years, the total mass of insects in Germany has decreased by 75 percent, researchers reported in October 2017. They had data from North Rhine -Westfalen, Rhineland-Palatinate and Brandenburg evaluated. Another evaluation came in 2019 to the conclusion that the insect diversity in three regions of Germany decreased by one third between 2008 and 2017.

Both evaluations are regionally limited – how much the number of insects in Germany as a whole has declined in the past decades is still unclear. However, there is no dispute that there is an insect death. Eight immediate measures against the great death In the specialist journal "Nature Ecology & Evolution", the experts led by Jeff Harvey from the Dutch Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and the Vrije University Amsterdam list eight measures that so should be implemented as quickly as possible: The agricultural landscape should therefore become more heterogeneous. The researchers want fewer monocultures and more mixed cultures to offer insects more diverse food and habitats, and that light pollution must be reduced. Lamps can irritate moths at night. The list also calls for the use of pesticides to be replaced by more environmentally compatible measures, the import of environmentally harmful products should be stopped and, according to the analysis, invasive species should be suppressed and their spread prevented , For example, the insectivorous raccoon has spread across Europe. The EU has already put it on a list of invasive species to be combated, as well as special protection for insect species that are already threatened with extinction, and claims programs should be supported. Conservation programs should be supported. "There is a strong scientific consensus that insect loss and species loss as a whole are a real and serious problem that society needs to address quickly," Harvey's team writes. The biggest problems are the loss of habitats and the fact that suitable habitats are often far apart. There would also be pollution and the warming climate.

Field trials against knowledge gaps Insects are crucial for the ecosystem and perform important functions such as pollinating fruits that serve as food for humans, the researchers continued. In addition, a large number of competing insect species reduce the risk of a species spreading so much that it becomes a serious threat to harvests.

However, the researchers have reached their limits with their demands. In this way, endangered species can only be protected if you know them and know that they are threatened. First of all, it must therefore be prioritized which insect groups, habitats and problems are most urgent and should be addressed first.

In the medium term, the scientists are calling for further research. The impact of human activities such as agriculture on various insects needs to be examined more closely. In order to find out, field trials were necessary, and insect collections in museums and scientific collections had to be increasingly evaluated. You could reveal how diverse the insect world used to be. This is particularly interesting for regions from which there is hardly any other data, according to the scientists.

In the long term, the team also calls for financing strategies to be developed, such as networks of state and private investors. They are intended to provide money to restore habitats for insects, to rebuild them and to protect them in the long term. In order to check the success of the measures, uniform standards for the documentation of the number of insects and diversity are needed worldwide.

Germany as a model example The "Insect Protection Action Program" adopted by the German parliament is commended in the paper. The government provides 100 million euros a year for the promotion of insect protection. Other states, especially the wealthier, should take this as an example and tackle the already known problems and solutions, the scientists write. There is already enough information to take action. "The most important thing is that we should not wait until every knowledge gap has been resolved," says the end of the article. "We have to act now."
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