published on 13 February 2019 in life

SOS insects, 40% of species are at risk

Insects account for around two thirds of known animal species. After appearing on Earth around 479 million years ago, they have colonised every continent. These extraordinary animals, which have achieved an unparalleled evolutionary success, are now threatened with extinction. According to recent research, in fact, around 40% of insect species risk extinction, at a rate eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The research was conducted by a group of researchers at the University of Sydney, who analysed over seventy research projects already conducted in this field. The main causes of the decline of the species are all of anthropic origin. The main risk factor is represented by intensive agriculture, due to massive use of pesticides and reduction of biodiversity in favour of single-crop farming. Climate changes put insects under pressure especially in the tropics, where the species have adapted to very stable conditions and have little possibility to change. Other factors are the loss of habitat caused by relentless urban spread and pollution.

Pollinator insects, like bees, provide an essential eco-systemic service helping flowers to expand their distributional area and reproduce. They also contribute to global food security.

According to the research, the worst hit orders are: Lepidoptera, to which butterflies and moths belong, Hymenoptera, like bees and wasps; Coleoptera, especially dung beetles. Aquatic insects include Odonata, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Ephemeroptera, which have already lost a considerable part of the species.
‘Current farming practices need to be urgently rethought, in particular a serious reduction in the use of pesticides, replacing them with more sustainable and ecological methods. Additionally, effective decontamination technologies must be applied, to purify polluted water both in rural and urban environments’, as suggested by the authors of the research.

With the sponsorship of the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research
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