In 2017 it became world news and led to a real media storm: German-Dutch research – published in Plos One – showed that in nature reserves in Germany that in the past 30 years more than three-quarters of flying insects (biomass) have disappeared.
Since 1989, German entomologists from the Entomological verein Krefeld have been monitoring flying insects in 63 protected natural areas. A globally unique collection of insect data has been collected over many years.
Professor Hans de Kroon, PhD candidate Caspar Hallman of Radboud University in Nijmegen, analyzed this data and showed a 75 percent drop in flying insect biomass over 27 years. An alarming outcome!
The cause of deterioration is probably a complex of factors such as intensification of agriculture, nitrogen deposition, use of plant protection products (especially insecticides) and fragmentation of habitats, as a result of which new areas can be reached badly or not by insects.
Researchers speak of the onset of a sixth mass extinction. Insects are essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems. They play an indispensable role in the cycle, processing organic material so that the soil remains healthy. This also allows plants and trees to grow better. In addition, they are important for the pollination of wild plants and the vast majority of them – eighty percent – largely dependent on insects. Three-quarters of all crops grown by humans are pollinated by insects. Insects are also a great source of food for many other animal species. About 60 percent of all bird species depend on insects as food. In the Netherlands, analysis of data from 2 long-term studies also showed a similar result as in Germany.
Commissioned by National Geographic Magazine NL & BE, science journalist Gemma Venhuizen (text) and I (photography) have worked in 2019 on an article about the decline of insects. In no less than 24 pages National Geographic has given ample attention to this important story. In the coming years, Edwin will work on his project ‘Orbis Insecta‘ to give more attention to these small and wonderful animals that are so important to our ecosystem.