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Daily News Blog

08
Jan

International Scientists Offer Solutions to Turn Around the Insect Apocalypse

(Beyond Pesticides, January 8, 2019) Researchers across the planet are calling on policymakers to take action to reverse insect decline. In a letter to the editor in Nature Ecology & Evolution, over 70 scientists compiled necessary steps to categorize and rebuild the world’s populations of invertebrates. “We must act now,” they urged.

International evidence points to a massive decline of insect populations at a global scale. This year, researchers warned that, if current trends continue, insects as a whole may go extinct in the next few decades. The rapid loss of invertebrate biodiversity is extremely alarming both because of the dramatic loss of life and devastating affect on the valuable ecosystem services, such as pollination and pest control, that insects provide. In addition, these small-yet-usually-abundant creatures are a vital part of the food chain and, as a result, scientists have documented a massive decline in bird populations in part due to the loss of insect food matter.

The letter offers a tiered response of actions:

Immediate: Implement no-regret solutions to slow or stop insect declines. Prioritize conservation of endangered species.

Solutions include reducing greenhouse gases, reversing trends in agriculture intensification, increasing landscape heterogeneity, and phasing out pesticide use by replacing them with ecological measures. The paper notes, “These solutions will be beneficial to society and biodiversity even if the direct effects on insects are not known as of yet (that is, no-regret solutions).”

Mid-term: Conduct new research and analyze existing data.

In order to disentangle the impact of various anthropogenic stressors that drive declines, more longitudinal research is necessary – both of insects in the field and in museum collections. The authors additionally advocate for innovation and adoption of insect-friendly technologies. They ask for an investment in building capacity to create a new generation of insect conservationists.  

Long-term: Build public-private partnerships, create sustainable funds for restoration, and monitor the problem over time.

The paper promotes “Establishing an international governing body under the auspices of existing bodies (for example, the United Nations Envrionment Programme (UNEP) or the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)) that is accountable for documenting and monitoring the effects of proposed solutions on insect biodiversity in the longer term.”

Coauthor Tara Cornelisse, PhD, an entomologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, stated, “We’re calling for action because insects are key to our own survival, and we ignore their decline at our peril.” Dr. Cornelisse continued, “Study after study confirms that human activities have decimated insects, from butterflies to bees to beetles. We can save these crucial species, but the world has to get moving.”

These words echo a paper released in June where scientists urged the public, “We know enough to act now.” Experts note that it is less critical, at this juncture, to focus on the complexities of the individual issues than to understand that many factors act as a “firing squad” of stressors. “In many cases it will be difficult to identify the killing shot,” the authors wrote in Conservation Science and Practice, “but we know the bullets are flying and we know where they are coming from.”

Similarly, Harvey et al. write that it is unnecessary to address all knowledge gaps before beginning to get to work on this global issue. They advocate for a “learning-by-doing” process of implementation, accompanied by research, to inform ongoing modification of executed measures.

Some of the paper’s language calls for “reduction” of pesticides, but Beyond Pesticides contends that reduction use is inadequate to the crises we face. The success of organic agriculture proves that toxic chemicals are unnecessary to food production. Organic lawn and landscape management can create verdant green space on par with any chemical-intensive property.

Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, wrote of the insect apocalypse, “What do we want to achieve? Certainly, we do not want to spend our lives on the treadmill of banning pesticide after pesticide that are used in land and building management systems because underlying pest conducive conditions are not fixed or prevented. How would we define a preventive approach that avoids the problems that lead to pesticide use and pesticide dependency […]? With organic systems, we are well on our way to eliminating the toxic pesticides that wreak havoc with life.”

There is still time to change our trajectory. More than ever, individuals must connect with their local, state, and federal elected officials and demand changes that protect pollinators and other insect populations. As evidenced by Connecticut and Maryland, and dozens of local pollinator protection policies, concerted efforts by grassroots advocates can create lasting positive change.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Nature Ecology and Evolution, Center for Biological Diversity

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2 Responses to “International Scientists Offer Solutions to Turn Around the Insect Apocalypse”

  1. 1
    craig clark Says:

    no more poison!

  2. 2
    Patricia Sechi Says:

    I have been an organic gardener for over 50 years. I have never had a problem with insect damage before I moved to farm country in Virginia. I always felt that because I had such a healthy microclimate, my plants and my beneficial insects handled unforeseen garden issues without any great losses. My assumption in my garden here in VA is that pesticide and herbicide use on the surrounding farms is causing invasive insects to flourish and they all seem to be headed for my garden. My gardens are relatively new here, so that could contribute, as they have not established their own balance yet. I am needing to cover my beds and use a hoophouse to try to mitigate the problems, particularly beetles. For those I am employing beneficial nematodes and milky spore and hope that this method will help, but I would love further suggestions or articles to read.

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