In Germany, there's a 'wholesale collapse of wild insects' happening

A malaise trap in a nature protection area in Germany. Credit Hallmann et

"This analysis is a good first cut of the data and I suspect, with further analyses, [the authors] can understand which of the species are decreasing because most certainly, it is not a 76-percent decrease of all of the species", says Krupke.

Although much attention has been paid to the decline of bees and butterflies, the latest findings suggest a problem with a much wider scope. "We need to do something and it's urgent, it's not something we can ponder for a few more years".

Dave Goulson, professor of life sciences at the University of Sussex says, 'Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth but there has been some kind of horrific decline.

"As one of the few studies assessing overall biomass this study is a useful complement to the larger set of studies on specific groups of insects", writes John Losey, an entomologist at Cornell University in NY, in an email to The Scientist.

To gain a better understanding of the extent and underlying causes of insect decline, Hallmann and colleagues measured total flying insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany.

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The researchers discovered an average decline of 76 percent in the total insect mass.

"We can only assess the overall decline over the study period, and are not able to look into the temporal variability in the rate of decline", Hallmann said. Weather and climatic changes seemed to have little bearing on the figures. Researchers said in order to try and neutralize the issue, there should be less pesticide usage and there should be an extension of protected nature reserves. "The research areas are mostly small and enclosed by agricultural areas". According to Caspar Hallmann (Radboud University), who performed the statistical analyses, "All these areas are protected and a lot of them are managed nature reserves". "It is possible that these areas act as an "ecological trap" and jeopardize the populations in the nature reserves".

"But exactly what is causing their death is open to debate". It is likely that the results are representative for large parts of Europe and other parts of the world where nature reserves are enclosed by a mostly intensively used agricultural landscape.

"As entire ecosystems are dependent on insects for food and as pollinators, it places the decline of insect eating birds and mammals in a new context", said researcher Hans de Kroon.

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