Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

It’s time to care about the insects


While reports last year on insect decline calling the situation an ‘insect apocalypse’ have been widely criticised for their methods, Dr Chrissie Painting from the University of Waikato, along with 70 other researchers from 21 countries, says that there is still some considerable cause for concern.

The group has joined together and released an international paper, setting out a roadmap of immediate actions to be taken and research required to investigate the evidence of insect population declines, and solutions to reverse any declines.

“For most insects we don’t know what is going on in terms of their populations, but there is some evidence of decline which is what led to this paper and call to action, aiming to remove the issues now and move towards new solutions while further research is conducted,” says Dr Painting, an insect behavioural ecologist.

The evidence so far shows that insect species are suffering from multiple human-induced stress factors including habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, climate change and overharvesting.

Some of the immediate ‘no-regret’ solutions put forward include reducing light, water and noise pollution, phasing out pesticide use and replace that with ecological measures, enhancing restoration and conservation programmes and educating for awareness among the general world population.

Dr Painting provided a Southern Hemisphere voice to the paper, along with some of her colleagues in Christchurch and Australia, as the paper was predominantly authored by scientists from the Northern Hemisphere.

This was important, as insect research and knowledge is at quite different stages between New Zealand and European countries.

“In Europe, the majority of insect species are described and have names, whereas in New Zealand we have an estimated 20,000 species, with only half of those having scientific names.

“This means we face bigger challenges, as we are still learning what species we have here, what their role in the ecosystem is and how human-induced environmental changes are affecting those species,” says Dr Painting.

The German government is currently leading the way in insect conservation, committing funds to the tune of $167 million to combat and reverse declining insect numbers, and the paper recognises this approach as a good example for other governments.
While it would seem that entomologists here should be aiming to rectify the number of species without names in New Zealand, Dr Painting explains it’s not that simple.

“There are two big challenges with naming our insects, one being that naming and describing species is a specialist job (taxonomy), and it isn’t as valued as it used to be, and the second being the scale of the task.”

Dr Painting works on insect and spider behaviour, especially around mating systems of species such as the New Zealand giraffe weevil that was the subject of her PhD.

“I’m fascinated by insect diversity, and what evolutionary pressures lead to differences between each insect.

“My group has recently begun working on Dolomedes fishing spiders of which New Zealand has four species. Overseas, these spiders have rather extreme mating habits, as after sex the male’s heart stops and the female spider eats him, so I’m looking to see whether we see similar behaviours in our New Zealand species. These investigations help us to understand the evolution of extreme mating strategies in animals.

“After getting involved with this international paper, I’m interested in using behaviour to solve some of the conservation issues identified, and I intend to start working on insect species that might be a bit more at risk and threatened,” says Dr Painting.

The paper highlights the need for this type of research so we know more about our insect populations, to better protect them and ensure their longevity. However, in the meantime the scientists suggest we should listen to the current evidence and remove the stress factors now.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

NIWA: Scientists Say Methane Emitted By Humans ‘vastly Underestimated’

NIWA researchers have helped unlock information trapped in ancient air samples from Greenland and Antarctica that shows the amount of methane humans are emitting into the atmosphere from fossil fuels has been vastly underestimated... More>>

ALSO:

SMC Expert Reaction: Record Dry Spells And Effects On Forests

With no rain forecast before Sunday, Auckland is about to break a record for the city's longest dry spell. Niwa says Auckland is likely to hit 40 consecutive days without rain this weekend . The upper North Island is seeing severe meterological ... More>>

ALSO:

Reserve Bank: Official Cash Rate Remains At 1.0 Percent

The Monetary Policy Committee has decided to keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 1.0 percent. Employment is at or slightly above its maximum sustainable level while consumer price inflation is close to the 2 percent mid-point of our target range. ... More>>

ALSO:



Science Media Centre: Novel Coronavirus Detected In China – Expert Reaction

The virus was detected after more than 40 people were hospitalised with pneumonia in Wuhan City, China and the outbreak traced to a large animal and seafood market. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that person-to-person transmission ... More>>

ALSO:

Science Media Centre: Flooding could release toxic gas – Expert Reaction

A chemical substance known as ouvea premix stored at an old paper mill in Mataura could release toxic ammonia gas if it comes in contact with water.More>>

ALSO: