Warning to humans: Half a million insect species will be extinct

insect speciesA monarch butterfly rests on a plant in the winter nesting grounds of El Rosario Sanctuary, near Ocampo, Michoacan state, Mexico, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Hundreds of farmers and agricultural workers attended the funeral of Homero Gomez Gonzalez on Friday, and the homage to the anti-logging activist was like a tribute to the monarch butterfly he so staunchly defended.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

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The world is in the midst of an insect extinction crisis and the consequences could be catastrophic for humanity, scientists warned.

One million species are at risk of extinction, and half of them are insects.

“The ongoing insect crisis is deeply disturbing. And we only know the tip of the iceberg,” said biologist Pedro Cardoso, who works at the Natural History Museum in Helsinki, Finland.

He is the lead author of the study that was published in the journal Conservation Biology on Tuesday.

Over 500 million years, the earth has experienced mass extinction of species five times before. The last one happened 66 million years ago and was caused by a massive asteroid strike. That was when the dinosaurs became extinct.

Mankind are responsible
Now the planet is experiencing a sixth round of mass extinction of species and this time it is humanity that is the cause, scientists said.

“Human activity is responsible for almost every decline in the insect population and extinctions,” said Cardoso.

The main cause of mass death is that the habitats of insects disappear, followed by pollution, especially the use of insecticides, and that new species are introduced to areas where they do not belong.

Climate change also contributes, in addition to over-exploitation – over 2,000 insect species are simply human food.

Valuable to the ecosystem
When butterflies, beetles, ants, bees, wasps, flies and other winged insects disappear, there are consequences far greater than the individual species being lost.

For the insect species, an important piece of the ecosystem is performing important “services” that cannot be done by others. They pollinate, contribute to the nutrient cycle and fight harmful insects in agriculture.

The value of the services they provide is estimated to be at least $ 57 billion annually in the United States, according to a research article published in the journal BioScience in 2006.

Worldwide, the value of insect pollination is estimated at $ 235-577 billion annually, according to the United Nations Nature Panel (IPBES).

Many animals are also completely dependent on just insects to survive. The decline in the number of birds in Europe and the United States has been linked to collapse in insect populations.

Extent of extinction may be greater
According to Cardoso, scientists estimate that there are 5.5 million different insect species on Earth, but only a fifth are identified and named. Therefore, the extent of the insect extinction is greater than the reporting should indicate.

Between five and ten percent of all insect species have become extinct since the Industrial Revolution started in earnest some 200 years ago.

The research by Cardoso and his colleagues is titled “Scientists warning to humanity about insect extinction”. It follows up on a warning written by experts 25 years ago as well as a new warning in 2017 signed by 15,000 researchers.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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