Scientists Across The Globe Create A ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ to Reverse The Insect Apocalypse

What is being called a Roadmap to Recovery has been unveiled to try and help stop and reverse the devastating ‘insect apocalypse’ we are currently experiencing. More than 70 scientists from across the world have called for immediate action to decrease the human factors which have contributed to this rapid decline, factors including several types of pollution, invasive species, and over-harvesting.

The paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution on the 6th January 2020 details short, intermediate and long term timescales with immediate actions including several ‘no regret’ solutions. ‘No regret’ solutions should be acted on as soon as possible, even though we may not know the immediate consequences; it is believed that they will inevitably be beneficial to society and biodiversity.

Those immediate, no regret actions are:

  • Increase landscape heterogeneity in agriculture
  • Reduce water, light and noise pollution
  • Phase out pesticide use and replace with ecological measures
  • Reduce imports of ecologically harmful products
  • Avoid and mitigate alien species introductions
  • Conservation of threatened species
  • Enhance restoration and conservation programs
  • Education for awareness, citizenship science, and capacity building

The second immediate action listed is a large-scale assessment to discover the conservation status of groups of insects to define priority species.

The mid-term actions centre around new research to help better understand the stressors which are leading to insect decline in different populations, performing field studies, and increasing explorative research to better understand understudied areas. The analysis of existing data from places such as private insect collections, museum and academic collections will also feature in this stage. This will be important in forming a new consensus of past insect diversity, especially in areas where data is currently non-existent.

Long-term actions include launching public-private partnerships and developing ‘sustainable financing initiatives’ to help restore, protect and create new habitats and to manage threats. A global monitoring program will be set up, preferably under the UN or IUCN or some other already established international body to ensure sites can be set up where long-term monitoring can take place.

Many initiatives have been suggested to support immediate measures. As well as those listed above, they include reducing greenhouse emissions, designing and deploying policies such as subsidisations and taxation to encourage the use of insect friendly technologies, and compiling and implementing conservation strategies for vulnerable, threatened or endangered species.

Funding should also be allocated to education and outreach programs, including those tailored to the needs of the farmers, land managers, professionals and the general public. In a bid to obtain more data on insect diversity and populations, and engage the public, enhancing ‘citizen science’ or ‘community science’ is also recommended.

Research has been prioritised into several different areas which will help scientists better understand the changes in insect diversity and abundance. As well as using existing data from private or public collections , exploring the impact of identified stressors on specific insect species is suggested. Carrying out long-term studies comparing insect abundance and diversity in different ecosystems along a management-intensity gradient to determine the most effective will also play a key part in this research.

The article stresses the need to not wait until all of the gaps in our knowledge have been filled, but to act now. Reports published over the last year have shown the sobering reality of this insect apocalypse; more than 40% of insect species are in decline, and a third are endangered globally according to the first world-wide scientific review published in February 2019.

Insects are necessary for the successful functioning of all ecosystems. As such, these scientists want Governments around the world to pledge their support and their resources; in September 2019 Germany announced they were dedicating 100 million euros towards an action plan designed for insect protection. Considering the current focus on climate change and the damage we are doing to our planet, this is yet another crisis which needs to be addressed before the impact becomes irreversible.

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Jessica Howard

Jessica Howard

31 years old, currently living and working in London, UK.

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