Insect Apocalypse At Least In North America
The idea of an insect apocalypse is a popular topic within the conservation science community. It has also been a major focus in recent years. Scientists warn of a global catastrophe and say that arthropods, a large group of invertebrates including insects, are rapidly decreasing. This could signal a collapse of ecosystems around the globe.
Researchers have observed large population declines in many insect species, including bees and butterflies, since 2000 and even more often since 2017. This trend, if confirmed, would be a serious concern considering the fact that insects are an important animal in nearly all terrestrial environments.
In a new study, which I co-authored along 11 colleagues, we reviewed more than 5,000 sets data on arthropods in North America. This included thousands of species and many habitats that have been covered over decades. We found, in essence, no change in population sizes.
These results do not mean that insects are perfect. In fact, there is strong evidence that certain species of insects are declining and at risk of extinction. However, our findings suggest that the concept of large-scale insect declines is still a question.
The Insect Debate
Scientists consider the possibility of insects disappearing a frightening prospect. This would have negative repercussions on all aspects of human life, including human well-being.
Some scholars are skeptical about the insect apocalypse. Some studies that showed widespread declines were restricted geographically and focused mainly on Europe. These studies typically only examined a small number of species or groups.
Some long-term assessments have shown that the declines over the last 30 years were caused by periods of increased insect populations. Natural fluctuations are a common feature of many insect populations, with some instances causing dramatic changes. Many scientists agreed that mass insect deaths were a concern, but the jury is still out about what actually happened.
Spotlighting North America
Bill Snyder, an ecologist, and I believed that studies indicating widespread insect deaths produced an interesting pattern with important implications. However, the evidence was not strong enough to draw any conclusions. We wanted to see what was happening in North America. This vastly diverse country has not been extensively analyzed for insect declines.
We used data from the Long Term Ecological Research network to conduct our study. This network is funded by the National Science Foundation. This network covers 28 U.S. sites that have been extensively studied since the 1980s. It includes forests, deserts, prairies, and mountains. We hoped that trends at these sites would complement European insect studies with almost 40 years of data.
Six undergraduate students were included, as well as post-doctoral scholars Michael Scott Crossley (and Amanda Meier) and colleagues from U.S. Department of Agriculture. We expected at least some broad insect declines when we had completed compiling our data.
Left confused by the results. We were surprised to see that some species declined while others rose. The most common result we saw for any species at any particular location was no significant change. Most species we examined had stable numbers.
We thought that we were missing something at first. We tried to compare different taxonomic groups such as butterflies and beetles, as well as different feeding methods such as herbivores or carnivores. Compared urban, agricultural, and relatively undeveloped areas. We tried to compare different habitats at different times.
The answer was the same: there has been no change. The sites that we visited did not show any signs of an insect apocalypse. In fact, there was no evidence of any large-scale declines.
Explaining Continental Differences
While we are confident in our analysis, and our conclusion, a bigger question is how our results differ from other recent studies. Two possible explanations are publication bias and location.
As I noted, the majority of insect decline papers are based on European data. Europe is home to more detailed and better long-term data than any other part of the globe. It also has three times the population density of North America.
A majority of Europe’s land is also adapt for human use. The sprawling nature of agriculture is intense and widespread. Large swathes of land are cover by cities and suburbs. It is not surprising that Europe has lost a greater proportion of its wild animals than North America.
Publication bias does not refer to dishonesty, false results, or anything else. This is the belief that more dramatic results are more publishable. Journals and reviewers are more interested in species in decline than species with no changes over time.
This means that declining species may become overrepresented in literature over time. When scholars search for papers about animal populations, they often find declines.
Long-Term Ecological Research sites chosen for analysis because they had raw data that was not peer review and therefore could be use to analysis trends. Scientists gathered these data to track ecosystems and see trends over time. It was therefore unbiased data. The data sets covered a wide range of habitats and species because they were varied.
Future Of Insect
Our study won’t be the only answer. The human population is growing and appropriating more of the earth’s land, water and biomass, the other species will have to retreat or survive on a smaller amount of resources. It is clear that the world loses some of its animal or plant life every time a forest, prairie, or field is plow http://126.96.36.199/.
This process can only be quantified with more monitoring, more conservation biologists in the field, and more awareness about how human actions impact biodiversity on Earth. It is possible that insects, which have survived through many biological disasters over the years, may find a way to continue their existence.