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The world could be on the brink of a mass extinction of insects

Some areas could see half their populations wiped out due to climate change and habitat loss

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

While you might sometimes find them a bit creepy or irritating, insects are among the most important animals on the planet. They keep our soils healthy and pollinate our crops, helping to provide food for millions of humans and other species.

But a huge number of insects could soon face extinction. Thanks to climate change and habitat loss (two things which are very much linked), insect numbers and species are in major decline.

A recent report from UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research has assessed hundreds of thousands of samples of insect numbers from around 6,000 sites around the world – and its conclusions are pretty worrying. Areas of so-called ‘climate-stressed’ farmland were found to have only half as many insects as their natural, non-climate-stressed equivalents.

The study suggests that intense farming and climate change are combining to destroy habitats and reduce both the overall number of insects and the number of species. The decline is greatest in tropical countries – which also happen to be where the majority of the world’s insect species live. Insects in Indonesia and Brazil, two of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, are highlighted as being most at risk.

So, what can we do? Well, the paper suggests methods of farming that use fewer chemicals and have greater diversity of crops. It also recommends more actively preserving natural habitats. As a consumer, you could take part in local conservation projects and also buy products which pride themselves on being environmentally-friendly.

You can read the full UCL report for yourself here.

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