'Catastrophic collapse': Plunging insect numbers threaten 'survival of mankind'

Insect numbers are collapsing around the world, which could cause the "catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems" and threaten "the survival of mankind".

The first global scientific meta-analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, looked at 73 studies conducted around the world. And the results were disturbing.

More than 40 percent of insect species are declining - and the rate of extinction is about eight times faster than that affecting birds, mammals and reptiles. Based on current trends, insects could be extinct within a century.

"The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet," the authors wrote.

"The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least."

Insects make up two-thirds of all life on earth by number. They pollinate plants, enrich our soil, and provide food for larger animals in the food chain. Their loss would be devastating to both agriculture and the environment.

"If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind," said review author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo told The Guardian.

"It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none."

The main cause has been blamed on agricultural intensification, and the use of pesticides and herbicides.

"That means the elimination of all trees and shrubs that normally surround the fields, so there are plain, bare fields that are treated with synthetic fertilisers and pesticides," Mr Sánchez-Bayo told The Guardian.

"Industrial-scale, intensive agriculture is the one that is killing the ecosystems."

Scientists in New Zealand are equally concerned about the effects a bug-less future could have.

"Bugs basically run this planet. They look after everything that we value," New Zealand's 'bug man' Ruud Kleinpaste told Newshub in 2017.

"Humans are getting a little bit too popular on this planet, and it has an effect everywhere. This defornation or this impact on our biodiversity seems to be going on with birds, lizards, and now insects."