Most of the 63 nature preserves in the study are surrounded by agricultural lands.
Dr Lynn Dicks, from the University of East Anglia, UK, who is not connected with the study, said the paper provides new evidence for "an alarming decline" that many entomologists have suspected for some time. "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". "Many of these preserves are islands surrounded by farmland, which may act as a sink for insects, resulting in a steady flow out from these lands", says study author and ecologist Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. "The big surprise is that it is also happening in adjacent nature reserves".
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"However", he continued, "when you get an over 75 percent decline in total insect biomass, you know this is not due to a few or vulnerable species". The results, according to Hallmann and de Kroon, are likely to be valid for major parts of Western Europe and other populated regions in the world where small nature reserves are locked in an agricultural landscape. On their observations, the researchers reported in the journal PLoS One.
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. In order to minimize the impact on flying insect communities, the team did not investigate each location annually.
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For Nocera, one follow up study would be to assess the trend in forests and wetland areas, which are among the most productive areas for insect populations. However, these results can't be yet attributed to the flying insects disappearing. "[Our colleagues] are excellent field biologists who were visionary and realized it was important to collect this broader insect population data", says Hallmann.
"If we were to lose the insects, we would lose most of our crops, we would lose all the flowers from the countryside, and we'd lose most of the bird life, the mammal life, and so on", Goulson told The World in an interview.
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