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Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
02-23-2019, 07:47 AM
Post: #1
Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
According to this disturbing article, the

"demise of insects appears to have started at the dawn of the 20th century, accelerated during the 1950s and 1960s and reached “alarming proportions” over the last two decades"

Insects will be gone within a century if current trends continue.
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02-23-2019, 01:30 PM (This post was last modified: 02-23-2019 01:31 PM by pier4r.)
Post: #2
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
As far as I know damaging too much one of the common species on the planet would cause a domino effect on the others.

Nature doesn't care much, if we fail to stop destroying things too often, we will be gone too (or at least we will go through a hard pruning). If that happens is a shame, a lot of knowledge and life will be lost (also our beloved calculators and math).

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02-23-2019, 02:37 PM
Post: #3
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
When it does happen and our Cockroach successors dig through our stuff, the HP Calculators will still be working.
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02-23-2019, 04:35 PM
Post: #4
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
Queue Apocalypse Now background music
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02-23-2019, 04:36 PM (This post was last modified: 02-23-2019 04:37 PM by Joe Horn.)
Post: #5
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 07:47 AM)Dan Wrote:  According to this disturbing article... Insects will be gone within a century if current trends continue.

The article lost all its credibility with me when it cited Paul Ehrlich as one of its supporting experts. Paul Ehrlich (also known as "Chicken Little") wrote the now discredited book "The Population Bomb" in 1968. Real science doesn't work by making wild predictions and hoping that SOME of them come true. If even ONE of his predictions turned out false, his entire "theory" should be discarded. But MOST of his predictions turned out to be false. So, anybody who quotes him as an authority about predicting the future is scientifically illiterate.

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-Joe-
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02-23-2019, 05:53 PM
Post: #6
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 04:36 PM)Joe Horn Wrote:  So, anybody who quotes him as an authority about predicting the future is scientifically illiterate.

Difficulties in making predictions …

Quote:OK! OK! Hold it!
I just want to say something.
You know, for every dollar a man makes
A woman makes 63 cents.
Now, fifty years ago that was 62 cents.
So, with that kind of luck,
It'll be the year 3, 888
Before we make a buck.
Laurie Anderson - Beautiful Red Dress





Cheers
Thomas
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02-23-2019, 07:41 PM
Post: #7
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 04:36 PM)Joe Horn Wrote:  
(02-23-2019 07:47 AM)Dan Wrote:  According to this disturbing article... Insects will be gone within a century if current trends continue.

The article lost all its credibility with me when it cited Paul Ehrlich as one of its supporting experts.

Then try another source, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollinator_decline

I don't know how the situation in the US is, but at least over here in Western Europe the signifiant reduction of insectcs over the last decades is considered a proven fact which is often discussed in public, especially with regard to honey bees.

Dieter
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02-23-2019, 09:34 PM
Post: #8
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 04:36 PM)Joe Horn Wrote:  If even ONE of his predictions turned out false, his entire "theory" should be discarded.

That's setting a pretty weird standard. Convenient if you want to discredit a body of work whose conclusions you don't like, but not scientific at all. Einstein was wrong about quantum theory, therefore all his work should be discarded? Some people who are raising the alarm about humans messing up the planet are crackpots, therefore every single alarming claim should be ignored?
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02-23-2019, 11:06 PM
Post: #9
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
MODERATOR REMINDER:

No one has done anything "moderator-worthy" yet, not at all. :-)

But this is sufficiently off-normal-topics that someone might get frustrated at the responses or statements of others.

Please stay on topic and discuss the topic with facts, thoughts or feelings.

Please do not attack the person who may have stated something with which you disagree.

Again, just a friendly reminder.

Thanks to all of you who make coming here to read and think a joy.

Gene
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02-24-2019, 01:33 AM
Post: #10
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 11:06 PM)Gene Wrote:  Please do not attack the person who may have stated something with which you disagree.

Again, just a friendly reminder.

Thanks for the reminder Gene.

Personally, I think our descendants one or two hundred years from now (yes, we'll go on) will wonder about our obsession with Apocalypse the past few generations. Atomic Warfare, Silent Spring, Population Bomb, Acid Rain, Ozone Hole, Global Warming, Climate Change - have I left anything out? They'll contrast that with rising life spans, increasing wealth, decreasing disease and starvation and violence and wonder - what the heck was gramps smoking! Very curious from a behavioral point of view...

~Mark

Who decides?
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02-24-2019, 08:17 AM
Post: #11
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 09:34 PM)Thomas Okken Wrote:  
(02-23-2019 04:36 PM)Joe Horn Wrote:  If even ONE of his predictions turned out false, his entire "theory" should be discarded.

That's setting a pretty weird standard. Convenient if you want to discredit a body of work whose conclusions you don't like, but not scientific at all. Einstein was wrong about quantum theory, therefore all his work should be discarded? Some people who are raising the alarm about humans messing up the planet are crackpots, therefore every single alarming claim should be ignored?

Just to be clear, I do not support throwing out the baby with the bath water. Big Grin I was referring to something more specific, namely the scientific method's very important step of testing hypotheses. If somebody raises an alarm, yes of course it should be taken seriously. It should be studied so seriously that testable hypotheses are generated from the reliable data that is gathered. Then those hypotheses must be tested, and as Karl Popper said so well, the best way to test a hypothesis is by trying your very best to disprove it. An efficient way to disprove a hypothesis is to find ANY counterexample to ANY of its predictions. Even one wrong prediction means that *that* hypothesis is wrong. No, it does not mean that the *data* gathered earlier during the study was wrong, nor does it necessarily mean that the *alarm* was false... but it does mean that the hypothesis which generated *that specific prediction* must be discarded. That's all I was saying. And that's why I reject the hypotheses in Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" which motivated his predictions which failed to materialize.

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02-24-2019, 11:11 AM
Post: #12
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
Hello!

(02-24-2019 08:17 AM)Joe Horn Wrote:  An efficient way to disprove a hypothesis is to find ANY counterexample to ANY of its predictions. Even one wrong prediction means that *that* hypothesis is wrong.

This is obviosly true for very simple hypotheses (like "the Earth is at the centre of our solar system"), but definitely not for a very complex system of theories trying to explain an ecosystem of planetary scale. Global warming for example is a fact, even if there are counterexamples of some local deviations from the overall trend.

In my part of the world the decrase in number of insects is again very obvious. We have a conservatory (I hope this is the correct translation of the german word "Wintergarten") on our house since 20 years. In summer it used to be a trap for flies, one had to use the vacuum cleaner every second day to remove their dried cadavers, but I have seen very few of them in the last 4 or 5 years. Local agriculture that depend on pollination reports an alarming decrease in yield. The number of birds that feed on insects has dramatically decreased. Not only here but almost everywhere in Europe and in many other parts of the world as well.
I was in the United States for almost three weeks in 2017 on occasion of the solar eclipse. On of the reported phenomena associated with eclipses is that birds stop flying and singing when it gets dark. But there were no birds in the first place. I have never seen so few birds anywhere then in those three weeks. From previous visits to the US I remember swarms of them, just like here.

Maybe these are all local phenomena but in this case I do believe what scientists find out through statistical methods. And even if it may be seen as "obsession with Apocalypse" as someone wrote further up this thread I rather understand it as "we finally start to learn that it is stupid to make the same mistakes ever and ever again".

Regards
Max
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02-24-2019, 02:58 PM (This post was last modified: 02-24-2019 03:01 PM by pier4r.)
Post: #13
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-24-2019 01:33 AM)mfleming Wrote:  Thanks for the reminder Gene.

Personally, I think our descendants one or two hundred years from now (yes, we'll go on) will wonder about our obsession with Apocalypse the past few generations. Atomic Warfare, Silent Spring, Population Bomb, Acid Rain, Ozone Hole, Global Warming, Climate Change - have I left anything out? They'll contrast that with rising life spans, increasing wealth, decreasing disease and starvation and violence and wonder - what the heck was gramps smoking! Very curious from a behavioral point of view...

~Mark

I strongly hope that your view will be the right one. But I am a bit more pessimistic.

First of all, even if good solution are found, they are found because there is a pressing problem. You won't likely find solutions without problems. Therefore the obsession you have at a certain point is about a pressing problem you didn't yet solve. And you may start to solve it too late.

Therefore it is like today we say "how silly were people in Europe around the 1400. Obsessed with simple diseases!". That is a silly statement, as one has to know that in Europe in the 1400, simple diseases were fatal. The same will apply to possible humans in 2200. If they are naive, they will judge with the eyes of their time past times.

Second. It is not necessarily true that if some metrics improve, then all is fine. The conditions during the roman empire in 200 AD in many - at the time - big settlements were much better than in the same settlements around the 600 AD.

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02-24-2019, 05:20 PM
Post: #14
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 07:47 AM)Dan Wrote:  Insects will be gone within a century if current trends continue.

They had it coming...

It ain't OVER 'till it's 2 PICK
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03-02-2019, 08:42 AM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2019 08:52 AM by Dan.)
Post: #15
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 04:36 PM)Joe Horn Wrote:  
(02-23-2019 07:47 AM)Dan Wrote:  According to this disturbing article... Insects will be gone within a century if current trends continue.

The article lost all its credibility with me when it cited Paul Ehrlich as one of its supporting experts...So, anybody who quotes him as an authority about predicting the future is scientifically illiterate.

Paul Ehrlich did not write the scientific review that is the focus of the article. He was just one of several people whose response to the scientific review was quoted in the article.

Another was Professor Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in the U.K., a bee expert and founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, who said "It should be of huge concern to all of us, for insects are at the heart of every food web, they pollinate the large majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy, recycle nutrients, control pests, and much more. Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects.”

The scientific review itself was written by Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney, Australia and Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, and published in the journal "Biological Conservation". It can be found here.

Their scientific review is a "comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe", and "reveals dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world's insect species over the next few decades...The main drivers of species declines appear to be in order of importance: i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanisation; ii) pollution, mainly that by synthetic pesticides and fertilisers; iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and iv) climate change. The latter factor is particularly important in tropical regions, but only affects a minority of species in colder climes and mountain settings of temperate zones. A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide. In addition, effective remediation technologies should be applied to clean polluted waters in both agricultural and urban environments."

The authors write in their conclusion that "unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades...The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least, as insects are at the structural and functional base of many of the world's ecosystems."

I think insects are marvellous creatures in their own right. One of my favourite exhibits at the Melbourne Zoo is the Butterfly House. I hope future generations can enjoy them too.



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03-06-2019, 11:45 AM
Post: #16
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(02-23-2019 05:53 PM)Thomas Klemm Wrote:  Difficulties in making predictions …

Quote:OK! OK! Hold it!
I just want to say something.
You know, for every dollar a man makes
A woman makes 63 cents.
Now, fifty years ago that was 62 cents.
So, with that kind of luck,
It'll be the year 3, 888
Before we make a buck.
Laurie Anderson - Beautiful Red Dress




Assuming the song was written in 1988, it would have been the year 3838, not 3888, before wage equality was reached. Anyway, the main difficulty here lies in having only two samples, which gives no clue about a suitable forecasting model.

Gerson.
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03-06-2019, 05:44 PM
Post: #17
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
Well I wouldn't miss the mosquitoes, at least.
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03-07-2019, 06:10 AM
Post: #18
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(03-06-2019 05:44 PM)Dave Britten Wrote:  Well I wouldn't miss the mosquitoes, at least.

No one misses the dinosaurs, do they?

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03-07-2019, 08:15 AM
Post: #19
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
I have been following this thread with an increasing sense of unease as we seemingly demean ourselves by being flippant about a serious topic. The decline of the insects, who E. O. Wilson describes as "the tiny things who run the world", is well documented (1-3) and will have very serious consequences for all life on Earth.

Richard Gray

(1) doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1722477115

(2) doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185809

(3) Multiple anecdotal accounts (my own included) of a large decrease in nocturnal insect activity in the last 50 years.
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03-07-2019, 09:47 PM
Post: #20
RE: Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature
(03-07-2019 08:15 AM)rncgray Wrote:  I have been following this thread with an increasing sense of unease as we seemingly demean ourselves by being flippant about a serious topic. The decline of the insects, who E. O. Wilson describes as "the tiny things who run the world", is well documented (1-3) and will have very serious consequences for all life on Earth.

Richard Gray

(1) doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1722477115

(2) doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185809

(3) Multiple anecdotal accounts (my own included) of a large decrease in nocturnal insect activity in the last 50 years.

I wasn't going to join this because in my view anecdotal evidence is rubbish. It's already out there, though, so I'll impartially offer mine as balance. I've got a bajillion bugs, butterflies, birds, and bats at my house in Western NY. Lots of other critters that are insectivores those those that eat them as well: snakes, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, &c. I've been here over 20 years and the wildlife level keeps getting more abundant and diverse.

I agree it's worth studying, but anecdotal observations (including my own) are useless.

Also, like Joe Horn, anything I see Paul Ehrlich involved in instantly loses a lot of credibility for me. He's more than a bit of a crank. There might be legitimate good information here, but once Ehrlich is on board, things get more than a bit dubious for me. That's not a rare reaction—I'm a bit surprised legitimate researchers would be involved if he is on board; shows poor judgment on their part.
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