More diversity in the fields and less pesticides: with this plan, more than 70 researchers want to save the insects.
This busy little bee is to be saved Photo: imago images /blickwinkel
Smaller arable land with more diversity and fewer pesticides: this is how more than 70 international researchers want to save insects. "It’s not too late, but we have to act now," explains Viola Clausnitzer, a scientist at the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History in Gorlitz.
The "Action Plan for Insect Conservation and Recovery" is divided into immediate, medium-term and long-term measures. "The first step should be to implement so-called no-regret solutions that benefit the entire insect world," Clausnitzer explains. No-regret measures are those where the benefits already exceed the costs under current conditions. "This includes, for example, heterogeneous agriculture or the reduction of pesticides."
The environmental association BUND and the Heinrich Boll Foundation also warn: "Global insect mortality must be prevented with sustainable agricultural policies." Together, the organizations are publishing an "insect atlas" this Wednesday that summarizes current data on beneficial and harmful insects in agriculture. It states: If animal pollination falls away, "individual fruit and vegetable varieties such as apples, cherries, plums or cucumbers are threatened with harvest losses of up to 90 percent."
According to the atlas, three quarters of the world’s most important agricultural crops depend on pollination by insects. They are therefore an essential basis for the food supply. And yet almost half of the 561 species of wild bees native to Germany are declining in numbers.
The insect atlas is included with the LMd on 9/1/2020 or can be obtained here.
Rapid action needed
"Man-made factors, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, climate change, and intensive agriculture, are leading to a loss of insect species worldwide," summarizes scientist Clausnitzer. "However, we believe that it is possible to halt global insect mortality – if swift action is taken!"
In addition to immediate measures such as a pesticide ban, the researchers’ rescue plan calls for searching existing insect archives, for example in museums, and centralizing the existing knowledge. Establishing an organization to sustainably fund insect habitats is also among the plan’s long-term measures.
This is because intensive agriculture has caused hedgerows and field margins to disappear and many monocultures to develop. Since 1950, 71 percent of arable weed species have disappeared. And with them many insects.
Benefits for all
So farmers have a lot of leverage when it comes to ending insect mortality. According to the authors of the Insect Atlas, what is needed is an agricultural policy that subsidizes those who follow a plan like that of the researchers and practice insect- and climate-friendly agriculture.
Because then, it’s not just the animals that win: if, for example, German wild bees are promoted by providing them with better habitats, the harvest of strawberries and cherries can double.