Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

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Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2019-02-10 11:00pm

https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... -of-nautre
The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, but the review strongly indicates the crisis is global. The researchers set out their conclusions in unusually forceful terms for a peer-reviewed scientific paper: “The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet.

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

Scarce copper butterflies.
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Scarce copper butterflies. Photograph: Marlene Finlayson/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy
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The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanisation and climate change are also significant factors.

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“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 Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, who wrote the review with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

The 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is “shocking”, 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.”

One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” he said. Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.

The new analysis selected the 73 best studies done to date to assess the insect decline. Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit. For example, the number of widespread butterfly species fell by 58% on farmed land in England between 2000 and 2009. The UK has suffered the biggest recorded insect falls overall, though that is probably a result of being more intensely studied than most places.

Surveying butterflies in Maine, US.
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Surveying butterflies in Maine, US. Photograph: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Getty Images
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Bees have also been seriously affected, with only half of the bumblebee species found in Oklahoma in the US in 1949 being present in 2013. The number of honeybee colonies in the US was 6 million in 1947, but 3.5 million have been lost since.

There are more than 350,000 species of beetle and many are thought to have declined, especially dung beetles. But there are also big gaps in knowledge, with very little known about many flies, ants, aphids, shield bugs and crickets. Experts say there is no reason to think they are faring any better than the studied species.

A small number of adaptable species are increasing in number, but not nearly enough to outweigh the big losses. “There are always some species that take advantage of vacuum left by the extinction of other species,” said Sanchez-Bayo. In the US, the common eastern bumblebee is increasing due to its tolerance of pesticides.


Most of the studies analysed were done in western Europe and the US, with a few ranging from Australia to China and Brazil to South Africa, but very few exist elsewhere.

“The main cause of the decline is agricultural intensification,” Sánchez-Bayo said. “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.” He said the demise of insects appears to have started at the dawn of the 20th century, accelerated during the 1950s and 1960s and reached “alarming proportions” over the last two decades.

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He thinks new classes of insecticides introduced in the last 20 years, including neonicotinoids and fipronil, have been particularly damaging as they are used routinely and persist in the environment: “They sterilise the soil, killing all the grubs.” This has effects even in nature reserves nearby; the 75% insect losses recorded in Germany were in protected areas.

German conservation workers inspect an urban garden for insects.
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German conservation workers inspect an urban garden for insects. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The world must change the way it produces food, Sánchez-Bayo said, noting that organic farms had more insects and that occasional pesticide use in the past did not cause the level of decline seen in recent decades. “Industrial-scale, intensive agriculture is the one that is killing the ecosystems,” he said.

In the tropics, where industrial agriculture is often not yet present, the rising temperatures due to climate change are thought to be a significant factor in the decline. The species there have adapted to very stable conditions and have little ability to change, as seen in Puerto Rico.

Sánchez-Bayo said the unusually strong language used in the review was not alarmist. “We wanted to really wake people up” and the reviewers and editor agreed, he said. “When you consider 80% of biomass of insects has disappeared in 25-30 years, it is a big concern.”


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Other scientists agree that it is becoming clear that insect losses are now a serious global problem. “The evidence all points in the same direction,” said Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in the UK. “It should be of huge concern to all of us, for insects are at the heart of every food web, they pollinate the large majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy, recycle nutrients, control pests, and much more. Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects.”

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Matt Shardlow, at the conservation charity Buglife, said: “It is gravely sobering to see this collation of evidence that demonstrates the pitiful state of the world’s insect populations. It is increasingly obvious that the planet’s ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these dreadful trends.” In his opinion, the review slightly overemphasises the role of pesticides and underplays global warming, though other unstudied factors such as light pollution might prove to be significant.

Volunteers look for the wormwood moonshiner beetle in Suffolk, UK.
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Volunteers look for the wormwood moonshiner beetle in Suffolk, UK. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian
Prof Paul Ehrlich, at Stanford Universityin the US, has seen insects vanish first-hand, through his work on checkerspot butterflies on Stanford’s Jasper Ridge reserve. He first studied them in 1960 but they had all gone by 2000, largely due to climate change.

Ehrlich praised the review, saying: “It is extraordinary to have gone through all those studies and analysed them as well as they have.” He said the particularly large declines in aquatic insects were striking. “But they don’t mention that it is human overpopulation and overconsumption that is driving all the things [eradicating insects], including climate change,” he said.

Sánchez-Bayo said he had recently witnessed an insect crash himself. A recent family holiday involved a 400-mile (700km) drive across rural Australia, but he had not once had to clean the windscreen, he said. “Years ago you had to do this constantly.”
Wow, chemicals designed to wipe out insects work exactly as intended. Pity nobody stopped to think about the long-term consequences.
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-11 04:04am

This is expected. Capitalism will either destroy itself or the world.

Of course, you can probably buy robotic bees from some yuppie startup in the future. That will totally fix the problem!

Fuck yuppies, techbros, other enablers and the entire crapitalist scene. :P
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by Patroklos » 2019-02-11 04:35am

How did Communist Russia and China deal with agricultural pests?

The only force pushing against the use of pesticides as a matter of course (as opposed to just managing which ones to be used) to any meaningful degree is consumer desire for organic (stupid) or at least environmental friendly (smart) options. Both are market forces.

We have a balance to perform, volume vs quality vs externality. We have the ability to farm with less pesticide and still reach required outcomes, and its not a choice between capitalism and XXX.

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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-11 05:39am

Industrial socialism also wrecked the environment, sure. By competing with capitalism, of which it is in many ways a copy. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Thankfully the footprint of industrial socialism is still magnitudes lower, per capita, due to various factors (inefficiencies, from a market standpoint). The USSR banned DDT in late 1960s and in general had much lower permissible concentrations allowed for this chemical in the decades when it was used as a panacea insecticide, but I doubt that this is explained by unique socialistic “greenness”.

The problem is the footprint of any member of an industrialized individualistic society exceeds sustainable footprint by such a wide margin it is no longer a matter of “balance”.

You are fooling yourself if you buy into the “organic farming” story, too, which is just a luxury fad for rich fcking yuppies. It is done on tiny plots of land whereas industrial farming transforms the entirety of lands in many nations to supply upscale foods for “conscious” rich consumers who are a small fraction of the population.

There are no forces other than ban on certain pesticides, like the EU tried to enact recently. But that is obviously not enough. Also it is not solving the problem of everyone wanting to live a high-consumption lifestyle.
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-11 06:48am

Bee populations, for example, are being now re-exported from former Soviet Union territories to the US and EU, suggesting less damage from insecticide use in our country. The USSR also employed enthomophage strategies (biological control) to combat insects, which is natural predation as opposed to chemicals. I cannot provide much in the way of statistics as of yet, but maybe write more later today. As a further example of differences, we never used dieldrin and several other bioaccumulating insecticides, banning them from day-1.
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by His Divine Shadow » 2019-02-11 07:23am

My parents have employed biological control agents for decades in the family greenhouse farms, very little actual pesticides used. Sterile bumblebee hives are used inside for pollination. Also small farms still feed the most of the worlds population IIRC, not western industrial farms. I read on a local forum that smaller farms are actually more efficient when one considers land management (the farmer knows his land better and how/when to do things) and energy in and energy out. They are not as efficient in market terms though.
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-11 07:59am

The hard truth guys.
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In dynamic so that you understand where the rest is moving to:
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by His Divine Shadow » 2019-02-11 08:03am

Interesting placement for Cuba...
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by SpottedKitty » 2019-02-11 08:28am

Patroklos wrote:
2019-02-11 04:35am
How did Communist Russia and China deal with agricultural pests?
Badly, in some cases. For one example; it's been too long to remember all the details, but I've read about a situation in (I think) China where the sparrow population was growing in leaps and bounds and eating a lot of the grain harvest. The Communist authorities decreed a sparrow eradication, so the farmers trapped every small(ish) bird they could... probably including some sparrows. Small bird populations crashed, and the next year, even more of the harvest was eaten by insects that weren't being eaten by small birds. I can't remember how long the resulting famine lasted, but it was particularly nasty.
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-11 08:52am

Despite this and many other errors China is still relatively close to the sustainable quadrant. Asian nations in general have a lower footprint, e.g. Japan or Korea, when compared to the US and Western Europe. Although it must be also noted many European countries are way better than the US, which is the worst offender.
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Re: Insects may go extinct within a century due to modern agriculture, triggering collapse of global ecosystems.

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2019-02-11 11:51pm

The ultimate reality is, we have technological solutions to this problem. We can in fact engineer plants to produce their own insecticides (chiefly Bt and IGRs), and these don't just protect the farms they're used on, but suppress pest insect (and ONLY pest insect) populations regionally. But we're not allowed to have nice things because of rich capitalist yuppies who are afraid of genetic engineering, and capitalism (with its IP protection after the public sector does all the hard work) prevents universalization of said engineered plants.
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