In 2017, a study by the Krefeld Entomological Association shook the professional world and the public alike: Even in protected areas, the biomass of flying insects had shrunk to a terrifying extent over the years. Since then, there has been widespread discussion about the causes of this – and how we can stop or reverse the decline. Spektrum.de therefore spoke to the expert Eckhard Jedicke from the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences about an ecological catastrophe that does not only affect the six-legged friends.
A few years ago the term “insect dying” made it into the public eye and has persisted there. What exactly does this mean and how serious is the situation?
Eckhard Jedicke: The term insect extinction is used to describe the massive loss of insect species, i.e. the decline and extinction of individual species and, at the same time, the sharp decline in their biomass. The large, visible insects such as butterflies, ground beetles, grasshoppers and dragonflies have now been very well investigated. Around 40 percent of these groups are considered to be at risk. However, there is a lack of reliable data for many other groups of species. The smaller and more inconspicuous the insects, the less we know about them. But one has to assume that the situation there is not fundamentally different.
In the meantime, not only the specialists, but increasingly also generalists, who actually get by in many different living spaces, are at risk. This is a strong warning signal for the state of nature and the landscape as a whole, because the death of insects is a widespread phenomenon.
How many insect species are there in Germany?
A good 48,000 different animal species live in Germany. More than 33,000 of them are insects. So they make up the majority of the native biodiversity. When around 40 percent of these species are endangered, that’s dramatic.