Half-a-million insect species face mass extinction, scientists warn of bigger crisis

The study linked the sharp drop in bird numbers to the collapse of insect populations

In a new study, published in the journal Biological Conservation on Monday, scientists have revealed that half of the one million animal and plant species on Earth facing extinction are insects. They have warned that the disappearance of the insects could be catastrophic for humankind.

Pedro Cardoso, a biologist at the Finnish Museum of Natural History and lead author of a review study, told AFP: "The current insect extinction crisis is deeply worrying. Yet, what we know is only the tip of the iceberg."


Who is to be blamed for such extinction?

According to the study titled 'Scientists' warning to humanity on insect extinctions', the disappearance of bugs that fly, crawl, burrow, jump and walk on water is part of a gathering mass extinction event, only the sixth in the last half-billion years. The last mass extinction event took place when an errant space rock wiped out land-based dinosaurs and most other life forms some 66 million years ago.

But, this time it's the humans who are to be blamed for such extinction. Cardoso said: "Human activity is responsible for almost all insect population declines and extinctions." Analysing the reasons, the researchers said that dwindling and degraded habitat, pollutants or insecticides, climate changes and over-exploitation are some of the prime factors of the disappearance. The study said that over 2,000 species of insects are part of the human diet.

Insects providing vital services

Speaking about the consequences of such extinction, Cardoso said: "With insect extinction, we lose much more than species. Many insect species are vital providers of services that are irreplaceable, including pollination, nutrient cycling and pest control."

The researchers said that many animals rely on insects for its survival. The study linked the sharp drop in bird numbers across Europe and the United States to the collapse of insect populations decimated by pesticide use.

"The number of threatened and extinct insect species is woefully underestimated because so many are rare or undescribed," Cardoso said. The experts have estimated the number of insect species at about 5.5 million. However, only one-fifth of them have been identified and named.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has evaluated only some 8,400 species of insects out of one million known to exist.