Insect extinction 'is even worse than we thought,' scientists warn

Researchers studied a million insects (Getty)

The world is facing an insect extinction even worse than many experts had feared - with a drop in the number of species of up to one-third in just 10 years.

Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) collected one million insects at 300 sites in Germany between 2008 and 2017.

They found that there were a third fewer species than 10 years ago, both in forested areas and grassland.

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Declines in insect numbers can have knock-on effects on bird, lizards and plants pollinated by insects.

In terms of insect biomass (the total weight of insects), the results were even more alarming, with a decline of 40% of insect biomass since 2008.

In grasslands, insect numbers dropped to one-third of their previous level.

Dr. Sebastian Seibold of TUM said: ‘Before our survey, it was unclear whether and to what extent forests were affected by the insect decline as well.

‘The fact that a large part of all insect groups is actually affected has not been clear so far.’

Professor Wolfgang Weisser of TUM added: ‘A decline on that scale over a period of just 10 years came as a complete surprise to us—it is frightening, but fits the picture presented in a growing number of studies.’

A report this year warned that the total mass of insects on our planet is dropping by 2.5% a year, meaning that insects could be wiped out altogether within a century.

Birds, lizards and even plants pollinated by insects could become extinct, the researchers warn - saying that extinction rates among insects are eight times higher than among mammals, birds and reptiles.

Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, of the University of Sydney, said in February: ‘If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind.’