SOURCE: The Guardian and Biological Conservation (1 & 2).

DATE: February 20, 2020

SNIP: The “fates of humans and insects are intertwined”, scientists have said, with the huge declines reported in some places only the “tip of the iceberg”.

The warning has been issued by 25 experts from around the world, who acknowledge that little is known about most of the estimated 5.5 million insect species. However, enough was understood to warrant immediate action, they said, because waiting for better data would risk irreversible damage.

The researchers said solutions were available and must be implemented immediately. These range from bigger nature reserves and a crackdown on harmful pesticides to individual action such as not mowing the lawn and leaving dead wood in gardens. They also said invertebrates must no longer be neglected by conservation efforts, which tend to focus on mammals and birds.

The alert has been published as two articles in the Biological Conservation journal.

“The current [insect] extinction crisis is deeply worrisome. Yet, what we know is only the tip of the iceberg,” the scientists write. “We know enough to act immediately. Solutions are now available – we must act upon them.”

“Insect declines lead to the loss of essential, irreplaceable services to humanity. Human activity is responsible for almost all current insect population declines and extinctions.”

The report notes that only about a fifth of the world’s insect species have even been named, mostly from only single specimens.

“Many insect species are going extinct even before being described,” the researchers said. “It is likely that insect extinctions since the industrial era are around 5-10%, ie 250,000 to 500,000 species.”

The key causes of insect losses, according to the scientists, are the destruction of natural habitat for farming and buildings; the intensive use of pesticides; industrial pollution and light pollution; and invasive alien species; and the climate crisis.