Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Is Australia Undergoing an Insect Armageddon?

Credit: Kevin/Adobe

Credit: Kevin/Adobe

By K. Tracy Reynolds & Ary Hoffmann

Long-term studies all over the world show a dramatic decline in insect diversity and numbers, but we know little about the health of Australian insect populations.

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Insect species and other invertebrates have been quietly disappearing in many parts of the world for decades without fanfare. Being small and often viewed negatively, the decline or extinction of insect species has, apart from two or three cases, gone largely unnoticed and unreported in the wider community. Yet the loss of insects could have dramatic effects, from the loss of vital pollinators of the world’s food crops to the collapse of ecosystems.

But a shift is happening. Reports of dramatic declines in insect numbers have begun to be noticed.

Most recently, a review of the scientific literature received significant attention in the world’s media. Published in Biological Conservation (https://tinyurl.com/yxkhbbqc), Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayoa of The University of Sydney and Dr Kris A. G. Wyckhuys of The University of Queensland examined studies documenting the loss of insect species across the globe. Based on these reports, they estimated that one-third of all insect species are under threat. This lends support to the suggestion that Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction event.

The importance of this review lies in its extensive examination of the literature. To begin with the authors identified a total of 653 papers dealing with insect declines. They then...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.