In the news...

November 1st, 2019

There are certain times in life — whether in our relationships, personal health or scientific research — when we think that we know something but the evidence is less than conclusive. An accumulation of clues or symptoms might suggest a particular interpretation without being strong enough to clinch the argument. In such situations, it can be a relief to finally get a definitive answer, even if the news is bad. Once we know that a problem definitely exists, we may be able to do something about it. Readers might feel the same way when they read the results reported in Nature by Seibold et al.1, which provide compelling evidence of a major problem — large-scale declines in the numbers and diversity of insects and other jointed invertebrates known as arthropods.

Insects have pivotal roles in terrestrial ecosystems. These organisms dominate global animal biodiversity in terms of their biomass, species numbers and total population numbers, and they perform important ecosystem functions and services such as pollinating flowers, disposing of dead organisms and waste, and forming crucial links in food webs. Insect declines have been implicated as possible drivers of declines in insect-eating birds2 and in animal-pollinated plants3. Thus, massive losses in insect diversity (Fig. 1) and abundance would be grounds for serious concern. Read more …