SOURCE: Phys.org

DATE: February 10, 2020

SNIP: Half of the one million animal and plant species on Earth facing extinction are insects, and their disappearance could be catastrophic for humankind, scientists have said in a “warning to humanity”.

“The current insect extinction crisis is deeply worrying,” said Pedro Cardoso, a biologist at the Finnish Museum of Natural History and lead author of a review study published Monday.

“Yet, what we know is only the tip of the iceberg,” he told AFP.

The disappearance of bugs that fly, crawl, burrow, jump and walk on water is part of a gathering mass extinction event, only the sixth in the last half-billion years.

The last one was 66 million years ago, when an errant space rock wiped out land-based dinosaurs and most other life forms.

This time we are to blame. The main drivers are dwindling and degraded habitat, followed by pollutants—especially insecticides—and invasive species.

Over-exploitation—more than 2,000 species of insects are part of the human diet—and climate change are also taking a toll.

The decline of butterflies, beetles, ants, bees, wasps, flies, crickets and dragonflies has consequences far beyond their own demise.

“With insect extinction, we lose much more than species,” Cardoso said.

“Many insect species are vital providers of services that are irreplaceable,” including pollination, nutrient cycling and pest control.