New study: Big agriculture and climate change are a threat to insects
The threats of climate change and the lack of biodiversity that comes with big agriculture could be a threat to insects and our food supply
The United States Department of Agriculture predicts that 1 out of every 3 bites of food you take was made possible by pollinator insects. Findings in a new study have revealed that climate change factors and large-scale agriculture could be playing a role in diminishing global insect populations.
What is “high-intensity” agriculture? High-intensity agriculture is the mass growing of one type of crop. Areas with hundreds of acres of one type of plant have been linked to a lack of biodiversity in nearby insect populations, the study in Nature Communications reports.
- This type of farming leaves less habitat and leafy food for the local bugs to feed on, causing some populations see a significant cut in the population, according to The Associated Press.
- Charlotte Outhwaite, an author of the study, told AP that both climate change and habitat loss due to high-intensity agriculture play a large role in the threat to global insect populations. She states that we need to understand the role of both factors to see the full picture.
Climate change and bugs: The effects of climate change on insects could differ, depending on species, location, environmental factors and other elements.
- The effects of climate change could increase some insect outbreaks, or decrease the population of other species. Either outcome could be a large threat to ecosystems and the world in general, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Is it really that bad if we lose a few bug species? Insect biodiversity — the variety of different insect species within an ecosystem — is “essential” for the proper function of our ecosystem and agriculture, the study states. Loss of certain bug species could mean the loss of certain types of food.
- The midge fly, although annoying and seemingly insignificant, is the primary pollinator of cocoa. If species like the midge were to die off, we would see an extreme chocolate shortage, said Outhwaite to AP.
- “Declines in biodiversity could reduce the resilience of natural and agricultural ecosystems to future shocks such as those from extreme climatic events,” according to the study.
- Insect pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and other insects, are responsible for about one-third of the human diet, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Can anything be done? The researchers of the study found that when insects had access to areas of natural biodiversity nearby, the bugs were more likely to survive.
“Careful management of agricultural areas, such as preserving natural habitats near farmland, may help to ensure that vital insects can still thrive,” said Dr. Tim Newbold, another author of the study, to BBC.
According to the BBC, such management can include:
- Reducing the practice of high-intensity agriculture.
- Planting a wide variety of crops.
- Preserving natural biodiversity near agricultural areas, such as patches of forest.