Australian researchers call for help to save our insects – CSIRO

Scientists fear Australian insect populations are on the brink of collapse andare calling for the public’s help to paint a better picture of the problem sothey can develop solutions to help tackle the challenge.

Australian researchers call for help to save our insects – CSIRO

Dr David Yeates is Director of the Australian National Insect Collection(ANIC) at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. He said researchersaround the world widely acknowledge insect populations are in decline, butdon’t have a true understanding of what is happening in Australia.

“Insects are essential. They provide billions of dollars’ worth of ecologicalservices to us each year, such as plant pollination, waste disposal and pestcontrol,” Dr Yeates said.

The green carpenter bee is in decline. Credi: Katja Hogendoorn University ofSA.

“While insect declines are no doubt occurring in Australia, the extent of theproblem is unclear.

“We have good data on declines in some iconic species such as the Bogong moth,green carpenter bee and Key’s Matchstick Grasshopper, however very few of ourestimated 250,000 insect species are being monitored.”

ANIC holds the world’s largest collection of Australian insects, which areused for research purposes, including into biosecurity, natural resourcemanagement and ecology, among others.

Dr Yeates said if more Australians used citizen science apps like iNaturalistAustralia , Wild Pollinator Count and Butterflies Australia then solutionscould be targeted in problem areas.

Earlier this year, a research review of existing insect surveys by theUniversity of Sydney’s Institute of Agriculture revealed 40 per cent of insectspecies are likely to be in catastrophic decline within a century.

However, most of the studies were completed in western Europe and the US, witha select few from Australia to China and Brazil to South Africa.

The collapse of insect populations in Europe appears also to be occurring inAustralia, with entomologists across the country reporting lower than averagepopulations across a number of species.

“The worry is, if insect populations are in decline, so are the populations oflarger animals such as birds and lizards who rely on them as food,” Dr Yeatessaid.

“We know in alpine NSW, there’s been a collapse in Bogong moth populations – astaple food source for iconic Mountain Pygmy Possums in spring, and thisdecline is resulting in the possums starving, but for most species thesedetailed interconnections are unknown.”

Experts have gathered in Brisbane this week to discuss insect declines as partof the Australian Entomological Society conference and are calling for help tobetter understand what is happening to our insects.

“We really need long-term data sets that would provide a better picture ofwhat is happening with our insects – where they are and in what numbers,” DrYeates said.

“This is valuable information we need to better understand the insectbiodiversity we have in Australia.”

Image: Pelecorhynchid fly credit CSIRO Entomology

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