75% decrease in flying insects over 27 years

Entomological Society Krefeld entomologists setting up a Malaise trapENTOMOLOGICAL SOCIETY KREFELD

According to Caspar Hallmann (Radboud University), who performed the statistical analyses, "All these areas are protected and a lot of them are managed nature reserves".

The researchers in Krefeld placed Malaise traps-mesh tents that direct flying insects toward a chamber with collection bottles filled with alcohol-within 63 nature sites between 1989 and 2016. "Most previous studies have reported biomass declines of less than 50 percent which is disconcerting". "Our understanding of the extent and underlying causes of this decline is based on the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups only, rather than changes in insect biomass which is more relevant for ecological functioning".

"As entire ecosystems are dependent on insects for food and as pollinators, it places the decline of insect eating birds and mammals in a new context", states Hans de Kroon.

Mr Goulsen said a possible explanation would be insects dying when they fly out of nature reserves into farmland "with very little to offer for any wild creature". "The big surprise is that it is also happening in adjacent nature reserves".

The researchers chose to investigate flying insects in particular because, in Germany, out of the approximately 33,000 insect species that are present, over 90 percent are those that fly. He hopes it's better, but he doesn't doubt that it could be the same for them.

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Scientists had been aware of the decline in the number of insects - which they describe as "the windscreen phenomenon", where there seem to be fewer squashed insects on vehicle windows than there was in the past.

Tortoiseshell butterflies in Germany.

"This is the first study that looked into the total biomass of flying insects and it confirms our worries", co-author Caspar Hallmann, from the Radboud University in The Netherlands, told BBC. In order to minimize the impact on flying insect communities, the team did not investigate each location annually. "The protected areas in which this study was undertaken are relatively small and surrounded by agriculture". However, these results can't be yet attributed to the flying insects disappearing.

Countless insects living in every corner of the world, prevents to conduct such calculations directly, so scientists conducting them, installing special traps in the national parks and counting the number of insects that fall in them for a certain period of time. "[Our colleagues] are excellent field biologists who were visionary and realized it was important to collect this broader insect population data", says Hallmann.

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