Investigating the links between human activities and global insect declines - UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly on a flower Picture: Ross Newham
The pearl-bordered fritillary is highly threatened in England and Wales, says Butterfly Conservation Picture: Ross Newham

A new £2.2 million project could enable more reliable assessments of how human activities cause global insect declines, as well as better predictions of future species trends.

Despite widespread reports of reduced insect populations, there is currently limited evidence to link species losses to specific threats says Dr Nick Isaac of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), who is leading the study.

The project will therefore bring together diverse sources of data including expert knowledge to assess the impact of individual threats – including agricultural intensification, climate change, pollution and invasive non-native species – on all insect groups across the world.

Dr Isaac will be working alongside UKCEH colleagues Professor Helen Roy and Dr Ben Woodcock, as well as researchers from the Natural History Museum, University College London, University of Cambridge, Queen Mary University of London and the University of Stellenbosch.

The four-year project, Global Insect Threat-Response Synthesis (GLiTRS), is being funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Dr Isaac says: “There are growing concerns that insect biodiversity has declined globally, with serious consequences for ecosystem function and services. However, information about species trends is fragmented, both taxonomically and geographically, and direct links between population declines and human-driven pressures are not well established. These gaps in knowledge are limiting progress in understanding the magnitude and direction of change, making it difficult to predict future trends or devise strategies to reduce losses.”

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