'Immediate action' needed to save insects, scientists warn

Scientists here and abroad are warning "immediate action" must be taken to avoid a collapse in insect populations.

A study last year found insect numbers are plummeting, one of the authors warning they could be extinct in 100 years - with devastating consequences for the rest of life on Earth. 

Local bug expert Ruud Kleinpaste told Newshub we would have "no hope in hell of surviving" if that happened. 

In a new paper published in journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, scientists from Australia and the University of Waikato have set out a "roadmap" on how we can prevent this doomsday from becoming reality.

"For most insects we don't know what is going on in terms of their populations, but there is some evidence of decline which is what led to this paper and call to action, aiming to remove the issues now and move towards new solutions while further research is conducted," said Chrissie Painting from the University of Waikato.

The scientists believe insects are "suffering from multiple human-induced stress factors including habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, climate change and overharvesting".

"Some of the immediate 'no-regret' solutions put forward include reducing light, water and noise pollution, phasing out pesticide use and replace that with ecological measures, enhancing restoration and conservation programmes and educating for awareness among the general world population," they said in a statement.

Other avenues include "aggressive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions", cutting down on intensive agriculture and giving tax breaks to "induce the innovation and adoption of insectfriendly technologies".

The challenge in New Zealand could be bigger than that faced in the northern hemisphere too, as we don't even know what species are out there.

"In Europe, the majority of insect species are described and have names, whereas in New Zealand we have an estimated 20,000 species, with only half of those having scientific names," said Dr Painting.

"This means we face bigger challenges, as we are still learning what species we have here, what their role in the ecosystem is and how human-induced environmental changes are affecting those species."

She said a big problem is that identifying and naming new species " is a specialist job, and it isn’t as valued as it used to be".


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