‘Nature is under siege’: Study finds insect population shrinking 1 to 2 percent each year

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A Monarch butterfly pauses in a field of Goldenrod at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(NEXSTAR) – Earth’s insects are faring poorly.

That’s according to a new special issue from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science released Tuesday.

According to the report, Earth is likely losing one to two percent of its insect population every year due to a series of interlocking causes, such as climate change, light pollution, agriculture, invasive species and deforestation.

“Nature is under siege,” the study authors write.

“If the tapestry of life is being torn apart, we have to understand if that’s a global phenomenon and how fast it’s happening and why,” said the study’s lead author David Wagner, a professor at the University of Connecticut.

Losing insects can have drastic consequences for the planet. We’re dependent on them for the pollination of food, the control of weeds and pests and for the creation of fertile soil.

And though one to two percent might not sound like much, the numbers add up year over year.

“You cannot subtract that much insect life from any terrestrial community on the planet given that insects tie everything together,” Wagner said. “They are the food web. The cascading effects will be tremendous.”

Monitoring insect populations is a trying task. There are more than one million described species of insects — some 4.5 to 7 million remain unnamed — and data remains limited, especially compared to that of vertebrates.

Nonetheless, support for insect research is growing, thanks to increased public awareness and legislation such as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

And yet, as the study notes, “Changes in national leadership can easily reverse environmental initiatives.” The study specifically singles out the administration of Donald Trump as instituting federal policy changes that “are inimical to conserving biodiversity.”

This can have dire consequences, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

“Time is not on our side,” the study authors write, “and urgent action is needed on behalf of nature.”

There are some things the average person can do. Wagner recommends rolling back pesticide use on your lawn, creating more insect-friendly habitats and being active in voting for nature-friendly legislation.

“Efforts to change national policy are tremendously important and probably the biggest bang for your buck,” he said.

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