‘Alarming’ loss of insects and spiders recorded

‘Alarming’ loss of insects and spiders recorded

SOURCE: BBC DATE: October 30, 2019 SNIP: Insects and spiders are declining in forests and grasslands across Germany, according to new research. Scientists have described the findings as “alarming”, saying the losses are driven by intensive agriculture. They are calling for a “paradigm shift” in land-use policy to preserve habitat for the likes of butterflies, bugs and flying insects. Recent studies have reported widespread declines in insect populations around the world. The latest analysis, published in the journal, Nature, confirms that some insect species are being pushed down the path to extinction. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the drivers of insect decline are related to farming practices, said Dr Sebastian Seibold of the Technical University of Munich in Freising, Germany. “Our study confirms that insect decline is real – it might be even more widespread then previously thought considering, for example, that also forests are experiencing declines in insect populations,” he told BBC News. “I think it’s alarming to see that such a decline happens not only in intensively-managed areas but also in protected areas – so the sites that we think are safeguarding our biodiversity are not really working anymore.” The general insect decline is linked to intensive agriculture, pesticides and climate change. The loss of insects has far-reaching consequences for entire ecosystems. Insects provide a food source for many birds, amphibians, bats and reptiles, while plants rely on insects for...
Insect ‘apocalypse’ in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides

Insect ‘apocalypse’ in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides

SOURCE: National Geographic and PLOS One DATE: August 6, 2019 SNIP: America’s agricultural landscape is now 48 times more toxic to honeybees, and likely other insects, than it was 25 years ago, almost entirely due to widespread use of so-called neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a new study published today in the journal PLOS One. This enormous rise in toxicity matches the sharp declines in bees, butterflies, and other pollinators as well as birds, says co-author Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth US. “This is the second Silent Spring. Neonics are like a new DDT, except they are a thousand times more toxic to bees than DDT was,” Klein says in an interview. The study found that neonics accounted for 92 percent of this increased toxicity. Neonics are not only incredibly toxic to honeybees, they can remain toxic for more than 1,000 days in the environment, said Klein. “The good news is that we don’t need neonics,” she says. “We have four decades of research and evidence that agroecological farming methods can grow our food without decimating pollinators.” “It’s stunning. This study reveals the buildup of toxic neonics in the environment, which can explain why insect populations have declined,” says Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. As insects have declined, the numbers of insect-eating birds have plummeted in recent decades. There’s also been a widespread decline in nearly all bird species, Holmer said. “Every bird needs to eat insects at some point in their life cycle.” Neonic insecticides, also known as neonicotinoids, are used on over 140 different agricultural crops in more than 120 countries. They...
Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten catastrophic collapse of nature’

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten catastrophic collapse of nature’

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...
Freshwater Is Getting Saltier, Threatening People and Wildlife

Freshwater Is Getting Saltier, Threatening People and Wildlife

SOURCE: Scientific American DATE: December 6, 2018 SNIP: Salts that de-ice roads, parking lots and sidewalks keep people safe in winter. But new research shows they are contributing to a sharp and widely rising problem across the U.S. At least a third of the rivers and streams in the country have gotten saltier in the past 25 years. And by 2100, more than half of them may contain at least 50 percent more salt than they used to. Increasing salinity will not just affect freshwater plants and animals but human lives as well—notably, by affecting drinking water. When Sujay Kaushal, a biogeochemist at the University of Maryland, College Park, who studies how salt invades freshwater sources, sampled the local water supply he found not just an elevated level of the sodium chloride, widely used in winter to de-ice outdoor surfaces, but plenty of other salts such as sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride. How people use the land is another important factor. “Today, the saltiest streams are in the northern Great Plains,” scientist John Olson at California State University, Monterey Bay says. “Salinity is naturally high, and mining and oil and gas extraction are releasing more salt by exposing new rock and pumping out saline groundwater.” In those places, he adds, it is not unusual to find streams that are about half as salty as ocean water. The largest predicted increases are in the arid Southwest, however. The combination of expanding agriculture and reduced rainfall there would require careful irrigation management, Olson says. In the Colorado River Basin, where several such projects are ongoing, the economic cost of salinization is...
The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

SOURCE: The New York Times DATE: November 27, 2018 SNIP: By one measure, bugs are the wildlife we know best, the nondomesticated animals whose lives intersect most intimately with our own: spiders in the shower, ants at the picnic, ticks buried in the skin. We sometimes feel that we know them rather too well. In another sense, though, they are one of our planet’s greatest mysteries, a reminder of how little we know about what’s happening in the world around us. We’ve named and described a million species of insects, a stupefying array of thrips and firebrats and antlions and caddis flies and froghoppers and other enormous families of bugs that most of us can’t even name. And yet entomologists estimate that all this amazing, absurd and understudied variety represents perhaps only 20 percent of the actual diversity of insects on our planet — that there are millions and millions of species that are entirely unknown to science. But extinction is not the only tragedy through which we’re living. What about the species that still exist, but as a shadow of what they once were? In “The Once and Future World,” the journalist J.B. MacKinnon cites records from recent centuries that hint at what has only just been lost: “In the North Atlantic, a school of cod stalls a tall ship in midocean; off Sydney, Australia, a ship’s captain sails from noon until sunset through pods of sperm whales as far as the eye can see. … Pacific pioneers complain to the authorities that splashing salmon threaten to swamp their canoes.” There were reports of lions in the south...