by Countable | 10.16.18
What’s the story?
Insect populations are disappearing at “hyperalarming” rates, as are the animals that feed upon them—and the problem is more widespread than scientists realized, according to a new report.
- Researchers studying the tropical forests of Puerto Rico found that temperatures have climbed two degrees Celsius since the mid-1970s—and that the biomass of invertebrates – such as insects, millipedes, and sowbugs – have declined by as much as 60 fold.
- The study "is a real wake-up call – a clarion call – that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems,” David Wagner, an expert in invertebrate conservation at the University of Connecticut who was not involved with this research, told The Washington Post. He added:
“This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”
Why so disturbing?
- “Given that tropical forests harbor two thirds of the Earth's species, these results have profound implications for the future stability and biodiversity of rainforest ecosystems, as well as conservation efforts aimed at mitigating the effects of climate forcing,” the team of researchers explained.
But is it the result of climate change?
- “If anything, I think their results and caveats are understated. The gravity of their findings and ramifications for other animals, especially vertebrates, is hyperalarming,” Wagner said.
- However, Wagner thinks there may be factors beyond climate change driving insect loss.
“The decline of insects in northern Europe precedes that of climate change there,” he told the Post. “Likewise, in New England, some tangible declines began in the 1950s.”
Why does it matter?
- “Unfortunately, we have deaf ears in Washington,” Louisiana State University entomologist Timothy Schowalter – who was not involved in the study – said. But Congress will have to listen at some point, he added, because our food supply will be threatened.
Thirty-five percent of the world’s plant crops require pollination by bees, wasps and other animals.
- Arthropods also chew up rotting wood and eat carrion. “And none of us want to have more carcasses around,” Schowalter said.
- According to a 2006 estimate, “wild insects provide $57 billion worth of six-legged labor in the United States each year,” the Post explained.
What do you think?
Insects around the world are in a crisis—does Congress need to act? If so, should they focus on climate change or some other way of protecting arthropods? Take action above, then share your thoughts below.