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Scientists are calling it "the insect apocalypse", and it has extremely serious implications for the future of our planet. All over the globe, insect populations are plummeting dramatically. And since insects are at the very foundation of the global food chain, that is really bad news for all of us.
In fact, one expert described what is happening to the global insect population as "hyper-alarming". If we continue down the path that we are currently on, a bleak, apocalyptic future for our planet is all but assured.
When scientist Brad Lister recently returned to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico, he quickly realized that something was very, very wrong. And once his team began taking measurements, they discovered that 98 percent of the insect population on the ground was completely gone...
"We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days," said Brad Lister. "We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: 'Where are all the birds?' There was nothing."
His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished.
But if this was just happening in Puerto Rico, it definitely would not be a global crisis.
Unfortunately, similar numbers are coming in from all over the planet...
Flying insect numbers in Germany's natural reserves have plunged 75% in just 25 years. The virtual disappearance of birds in an Australian eucalyptus forest was blamed on a lack of insects caused by drought and heat. Lister and his colleague Andrés García also found that insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico had fallen 80% since the 1980s.
"We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on the planet, along with all the other life on the planet," Lister said. "It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this."
And one study that looked at data from the entire world concluded that there has been "a 45 percent drop in the abundance of invertebrates"...
Worldwide, a 2014 summary of global declines in biodiversity and abundance estimated a 45 percent drop in the abundance of invertebrates, most of which are insects. And many individual species and species groups are declining or even being threatened with extinction, from bumblebees in Europe and the United States to fungus weevils in Africa.
Without insects, we would have an exceedingly difficult time trying to survive on this planet. I really like how a Scientific American article made this point...
Insects pollinate a spectrum of plants, including many of those that humans rely on for food. They also are key players in other important jobs including breaking dead things down into the building blocks for new life, controlling weeds and providing raw materials for medicines.
And they provide sustenance for a spectrum of other animals--in fact, the Puerto Rico study showed a decline in density of insect-eating frogs, birds and lizards that paralleled the insect nosedive.
As the planetary food chain systematically breaks down, we can rely on the artificial food chains that we have created for a while, but once things get bad enough those artificial food chains will not be nearly enough to feed the entire planet.
And it isn't just invertebrates that are seeing their populations collapse.
Vertebrate populations are collapsing too, and according to one recent report they are down "an average of 60 percent since 1970"...
The population of the planet's vertebrates has dropped an average of 60 percent since 1970, according to a report by the WWF conservation organization.
The most striking decline in vertebrate population was in the tropics in South and Central America, with an 89 percent loss compared to 1970. Freshwater species have also significantly fallen -- down 83 percent in that period.
Vertebrates include all mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles.
Needless to say, a 60 percent decline in less than 50 years is absolutely horrific, and essentially what we are facing is a slow-motion global cataclysm.
So what would a planet without insects look like?
Well, according to Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney, millions upon millions of birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish would "starve to death"...
One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. "If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death," he said. Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.
And without bees and other pollinators, humans would be in a world of hurt. You may have heard that Albert Einstein once said the following...
"If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live."
With that statement in mind, I would like for you to consider what this new study discovered about the decline of bee colonies in the United States...
The study suggested that bee species in the UK, Denmark, and North America have taken major hits -- bumblebees, honey bees, and wild bee species are all declining. In the US, the number of honey-bee colonies dropped from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million just six decades later.
We aren't there yet, but a food chain cataclysm is literally right around the corner.