German Nature Reserves Have Lost More Than 75% of Flying Insects

Entomological Society Krefeld entomologists setting up a Malaise trapENTOMOLOGICAL SOCIETY KREFELD

Entomologists (insect researchers) in Krefeld, Germany, led by Martin Sorg and Heinz Schwan, collected data over the past 27 years in 63 different places within nature reserves across Germany.

Researchers in Germany have documented a steep decline in flying insects at dozens of nature reserves in the past three decades, and agricultural pesticides may be to blame.

When the weight of the samples taken from the malaise traps was compared to samples taken in 1989, an average loss of 76 per cent was recorded.

"In the middle of the summer, when many insects are at their peak", an even larger decline of 82 percent was measured, the study authors wrote. "Changes in the weather, landscape and plant variety in these areas are unable to explain this", a press release for the study noted.

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Although it was known species such as bees and butterflies were declining, scientists were left shocked by the drop in numbers across nature reserves in Germany. Prior research further shows insect-eating birds numbers have dramatically declined throughout Western Europe.

While no corresponding data over the same study period is available for non-flying insects, "we can just hope they are faring better, but we have no reason to believe that is the case", Hallman said. "All these areas are protected and a lot of them are well-managed nature reserves", said Caspar Hallmann at Radboud University and part of the research team, "yet, this dramatic decline has occurred". "It is possible that these areas act as an 'ecological trap" and jeopardize the populations in the nature reserves, ' explains Hallmann. "We can barely imagine what would happen if this downward trend continues unabated".

"We need to do less of the things that we know have a negative impact, such as the use of pesticides", he added. "But we also have to work hard at extending our nature reserves and decreasing the ratio of reserves that border agricultural areas".

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