Decline of insects could cause natural catastrophe, study warns

(CNN) — A new study warns that insect populations around the world are falling dramatically, which could have a potentially “catastrophic” effect on the planet, according to a study published in the journal Biological Conservation.

The report’s authors, scientists from the University of Sydney, University of Queensland and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said urgent and radical action is needed to avert the looming crisis.

More than 40 percent of insect species could become extinct in the next few decades, the study said.

In the last 30 years, insect populations have dropped by 2.5 percent a year, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo at the University of Sydney, one of the study’s co-authors, said to The Guardian.

Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit.

“It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none," he said.

This loss impacts on the birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat bugs, who are losing their sources of food.

The report said pollution and habitat loss because of intensive agriculture and urbanization are the two most important drivers for falling populations.

Biological factors and global warming are also taking a toll on bugs, which make up around 70 percent of all animal species in the world.

They have been “the structural and functional base of many of the world’s ecosystems since their rise ... almost 400 million years ago.”

The study’s abstract said, “A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide.”

Cleaning polluted water in agriculture and urban environment should also be a priority, the study said.