The existing boundaries of national parks and other conservation areas are not enough to preserve more than three-quarters of the world’s studied insects.
The discovery, announced on February 1 in . one countryit shows that people who think about conserving nature “don’t think much about insects,” says coauthor Shawan Chowdhury, an ecologist at the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig.
This is a problem because insect populations are plummeting around the globe, a growing body of research suggests, probably due to climate change and human development (SN: 4/26/22). For example, insect abundance in Puerto Rico has dropped by up to 98 percent over the last 35 years.
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Threats of surviving insects could have ripple effects on plants and other animals. Insects help form the foundation of many ecosystems: they pollinate about 80 percent of all plant species and make up the diets of hundreds of thousands of animals (and sometimes carnivorous plants).
One way to avert extinction is for the insect to dispose of the land that survives. But scientists only know about an estimated 100,000 thousand insect species. To determine how well existing protected areas can help insect conservation, Chowdhury and colleagues listed the known locations of about 89,000 of those species and compared the protected areas from the World Database on Protected Areas.
Overall, these spaces do not provide adequate habitat protection for 67,384 insect species — about 76 percent of the species in the study — the team found. Roughly 2 percent of species do not overlap with protected areas at all.
Conserving insects, Chowdhury says, will mean more insect-friendly spaces for years to come.
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