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.
The recent decline in bugs that fly, crawl, burrow and skitter across still water is part of a gathering “mass extinction,” only the sixth in the last half-billion years.
“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.
“We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline—41 percent—to be twice as high as that of vertebrates,” or animals with a backbone, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney and Kris Wyckhuys of the University of Queensland in Australia reported.
“At present, a third of all insect species are threatened with extinction.”