SOURCE: SBS News

DATE: February 11, 2019

SNIP: Nearly half of all insect species worldwide are in rapid decline and a third could disappear altogether, according to a study warning of dire consequences for crop pollination and natural food chains.

“Unless we change our way of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” concluded the peer-reviewed study, which is set for publication in April.

“We are witnessing the largest extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods,” the authors noted.

The Permian end-game 252 million years ago snuffed out more than 90 percent of the planet’s life forms, while the abrupt finale of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago saw the demise of land dinosaurs.

“At present, a third of all insect species are threatened with extinction. Only decisive action can avert a catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems,” the authors cautioned.

Restoring wilderness areas and a drastic reduction in the use of pesticides and chemical fertiliser are likely the best way to slow the insect loss, they said.

Moles, hedgehogs, anteaters, lizards, amphibians, most bats, many birds and fish all feed on insects or depend on them for rearing their offspring.

Other insects filling the void left by declining species probably cannot compensate for the sharp drop in biomass, the study said.

Insects are also the world’s top pollinators — 75 percent of 115 top global food crops depend on animal pollination, including cocoa, coffee, almonds and cherries.