A recent report, by Professor Dave Goulson, summarises the available evidence of the decline in insect populations, and also outlines actions that can be taken at all levels – from the individual to government – to help insects recover, and increase their numbers.
The report is brief, well-written, and anyone who cares about nature and wildlife, and the well-being of the planet as a whole, will find this a useful source of information, along with great ideas for positive action we can all take.
The report explains that the abundance of insects has declined by 50% since 1950. This is quite staggering, and has wide-ranging implications for all life on earth.
It is generally agreed that the causes of this dramatic decline include – habitat loss, exposure to biocides, and climate change. Other causes of negative impact on insects will likely include exposure to noise, light pollution, electro-magnetic fields, and there may also be impacts as a result of technological developments that we do not yet understand.
Insects come in all shapes and sizes, and are generally small and easily overlooked – when compared to other wildlife such as mammals and birds. While we may not notice the decreased abundance of the insects themselves, the effects of the decline in insects is keenly felt by other species within the ecosystem.
For example, take a look at insectivorous birds in the UK, and the populations of key species have plummeted from 1967-2016 – Spotted Flycatcher and Nightingale populations have both declined by 93%; Grey Partridge by 92%; and the much loved Cuckoo by 77%. In the 1990s the Red-Backed Shrike, a specialist predator of large insects, became extinct in the UK.
Butterflies are one of our more noticeable insects, and from 1976-2017 the abundance of these insects in the ‘wider countryside’ declined by 46%.
The report reminds us of the stark facts around habitat loss and the decline of nature in the UK. Since 1950, it is estimated that we have lost – 150,000 miles of hedgerow; 98% of wildflower meadows; and 60% of ancient woodlands. No wonder insects and other wildlife are declining both in abundance and in diversity, there homes and their means of moving around are being destroyed.
Regarding the use of biocides, the report says that around 170,000 tons of poison are spread in the countryside each year.
So what can be done? The call to action is a simple one, and if embraced would be hugely beneficial, not only to insects, but to all living beings.
“We urgently need to stop all routine and unnecessary use of pesticides and start to build a nature recovery network by creating more and better connected, insect friendly habitat in our gardens, towns, cities and countryside.”
So that’s simple – stop poisoning the environment and let’s all start sowing and planting flowers rich in nectar and pollen. You can see what Professor Dave Goulson suggests by following this link.
Together we can create a better, brighter countryside buzzing with life.