DISCUSSION: Climate change is on track to wipe out almost half of all insect species by the end of the century, according to a recently released report.
The report analyzed the ramifications varying outcomes of climate change would have on 115,000 living species. Professor Rachel Warren of the University of East Anglia (UEA) led the report which found that plants and insects are heavily affected by climate change. Mammals and birds are also affected, but less severely given their ability to migrate more easily.
Warren noted that insects are the most sensitive group, meaning they are most vulnerable to widespread decimation if action is not taken in addition to what is already in place. The study found that even with current carbon emission cuts almost half of insect species will be gone by 2100. The loss of insects would be tragic to the ecosystem, especially with the projected loss of species like bees that pollinate many plants. “They are important because ecosystems cannot function without insects. They play an absolutely critical role in the food chain”, said Warren in an interview with The Guardian.
The analysis included data on the geographic ranges and current climates of 31,000 insect species, 8,000 birds, 1,000 amphibians, 1,700 mammals, 1,800 reptiles and 71,000 plants. The study looked at how the ranges of species would change when certain areas of the world couldn’t support certain species anymore. The study did this by providing calculations for the ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5C) target set in the Paris Climate Agreement, the established 2C target, and 3.2C, which is the track the world is currently on should there be no further intervention to stop climate change.
The researchers looked at two variables in the end. They first found that as a result of climate change, 49% of insects would lose their ranges as a result of the 3.2C projection. This was trailed by the 2C threshold at an 18% loss and the 1.5C threshold at a 6% loss. Warren’s team also found that insects will lose on average 43% of their lands should the world warm 3.2C by the end of the century. When specific species are looked at, the team found that pollinating insects are particularly susceptible to losses due to climate change.
In 2017, researchers in Germany found that the country had lost three-fourths of flying insects in the past 25 years, prompting the team to conclude that this was happening globally. This prompted many scientists to warn of an “ecological Armageddon”. Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex was not part of the study but does believe that the future of biodiversity on Planet Earth is nonexistent. “When we add in all the other adverse factors affecting wildlife, all likely to increase as the human population grows, the future for biodiversity on planet Earth looks bleak,” said Goulson.
Professor Guy Midgley of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa also gave a grim outlook when referring to the loss of insect species. Midgley noted that this was the most comprehensive of studies on the loss of insects due to climate change projections, yet it still failed to cover the impact of lost interactions between species as ranges change and what effects extreme weather would have on the ecosystem. Due to this, Midgley assumed that the research in the study were underestimates, and the adverse effects would likely be greater.
Warren believes that most countries have been aware that this is an issue. “It is the when and how,” Warren said, “which will determine the future of the planet. The question is to what extent greater reductions can be made and on what timescale. That is a decision society has to make.” Already, a study published earlier this month found that one-third of the world’s protected lands, which account for 15% of all land spaces, have now been corrupted by intensive farming, grazing, and urbanization. Professor Kendall Jones, the University of Queensland professor that led the study, concluded that a well-run network of protected land areas is necessary to keep from annihilating species and ecosystems worldwide.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger