The Great Insect Dying: How to save insects and ourselves

first_imgThe entomologists interviewed for this Mongabay series agreed on three major causes for the ongoing and escalating collapse of global insect populations: habitat loss (especially due to agribusiness expansion), climate change and pesticide use. Some added a fourth cause: human overpopulation.Solutions to these problems exist, most agreed, but political commitment, major institutional funding and a large-scale vision are lacking. To combat habitat loss, researchers urge preservation of biodiversity hotspots such as primary rainforest, regeneration of damaged ecosystems, and nature-friendly agriculture.Combatting climate change, scientists agree, requires deep carbon emission cuts along with the establishment of secure, very large conserved areas and corridors encompassing a wide variety of temperate and tropical ecosystems, sometimes designed with preserving specific insect populations in mind.Pesticide use solutions include bans of some toxins and pesticide seed coatings, the education of farmers by scientists rather than by pesticide companies, and importantly, a rethinking of agribusiness practices. The Netherlands’ Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery includes some of these elements. In recent months a debate over whether a global insect apocalypse is underway has raged in the mainstream media and among researchers. To assess the range of scientific opinion, Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and other scientists working on six continents, in more than a dozen countries, to better determine what we know, what we don’t, and most importantly — what we should do about it. This is part 4 of a four part exclusive series written by Mongabay senior contributor Jeremy Hance. Click on the following links to read part 1, part 2, and part 3.They formed the unlikeliest of survey teams: in 2017, University of Reno entomologist Lee Dyer, graduate student Danielle Salcido, and executives from some of the world’s biggest banks spent a week roughing it at a gathering facilitated by the Earthwatch Institute. The team chatted, laughed, hiked and scrounged the coniferous forests of Arizona’s Chiricahua National Forest hunting for bugs.At night, the researchers gave presentations about the impacts of global warming on insect populations. On the last day, a researcher offered a talk on the value of native plantings around homes — a message that really connected.“They loved that talk; discussion ensued, and they left with excitement to plant native trees in their yards,” says Salcido. But she worries whether this small-scale solution undercut a week’s worth of messaging to get these powerful people to comprehend the links between a rapidly warming world, plummeting insect populations, and the impacts both may have on ecosystems and civilization.“I was disappointed they left thinking we can solve these complicated global issues by planting a tree,” she says. “In their minds ‘doing their part’ was so distilled and small-scale; I realized that when many people are giving honest efforts to do their part, they are naïve [as] to how much change that will bring about.”last_img

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