Issue 2 editorial – Insects Armageddon – Is this the 6th mass extinction?
Insects Armageddon – Is this the 6th mass extinction?
Over the 600 million years that animals have been on this planet, there have been five major mass extinctions. The fossil record shows that, at least five times, a huge percentage of all life disappeared for ever. The last of these happened at the famous KT boundary about 80 million years ago, when all the dinosaurs disappeared, never to return. We now have to ask whether humans have created the next, and 6th, mass extinction?! Over the last two millennia, human activity has been responsible for a loss of more than 80% of wild animals. Since the 1980s alone, the number of mammal, bird, reptile, and fish species has dropped by some 60%. But the current crisis is even more serious, and involves a key part of all land ecosystems – insects. Insects, that include beetles, flies, bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, dragon flies, fireflies and glowworms represent the largest group of animals on the Earth, represented by well over a million species. But recent evidence, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that over the past few decades the use of insecticides, other farm chemicals, and loss of wild flowers, there has been a huge drop in the number of insect. Now climate change is also causing havoc with insect numbers and their predators. When I was a boy, in the summer, I passed a buddleia bush, crammed with butterflies sucking up its nectar. Now, there are virtually none to be seen on flowers of buddleia. The loss of insects could be catastrophic, as many plants, including fruits, require pollination by insects. Also insects are a key food supply for many other animals. It is predicted that over the next few decades some million species are threatened with extinction. So urgent action is required, including careful monitoring of numbers and species. Send us your observations. What bees do you see in your garden?
Read more at:
Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web
Bradford C. Lister and Andres Garcia
PNAS October 30, 2018 115 (44) E10397-E10406; published ahead of print October 15, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1722477115