A new report published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has revealed that global warming has led to devastating losses in the insect population worldwide.
This could lead to catastrophic waves throughout ecosystems, particularly in Puerto Rico, one of the most affected areas.
“This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call — a clarion call — that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems. This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read,” claimed David Wagner, an invertebrate conservation expert at the University of Connecticut.
The report, conducted by biologists Bradford Lister and Andrés García, shows that traps and captures for insect data collection in Puerto Rican forests have decreased by 60-fold. This includes moths, butterflies, and even spiders.
The very first microscope invented in the 16th century was created to view and study insects. With the insect population decreasing rapidly, there may be no more species to analyze.
But it isn’t just a loss in insects that has scientists worried. It’s their predators too.
The study has also shown a 30% drop in the anole lizard population from the 1970s to today. Some species of anole lizard have disappeared from forests altogether.
Puerto Rican populations of frog and birds have also suffered as insect-eating species have lost a viable food source. Forests once teeming with life are practically barren, according to Lister and García.
Captures also show that the populations of insect-eating birds have dropped by 50% between 1990 and 2005. One species, known as the Puerto Rican tody, has seen a population decline of nearly 90%.
But what has caused this massive population decline?
After the biologists ruled out pesticide use and other locally-specific causes, the rising trend in global warming is the number one suspect behind the insect loss.
These falling populations are primarily due to the two-degree Celsius global temperature rise.
Over the course of the last four decades, the daily average temperature has continuously increased since the 1970s, leading to a disruption in food webs across the globe.
The study published by PNAS corroborates this evidence. According to Lister and García, the forest temperatures in Puerto Rico have risen by two degrees Celsius in the past 30 years.
But what’s causing global warming?
It’s thought that human emissions are the primary culprit.
According to studies, the planet has warmed by one degree Celsius due to human activity and this number is projected to rise catastrophically in the next hundred years if we don’t control the number of greenhouse gas emissions.
If no climate change policies and green energy initiatives are implemented, the global temperature is projected to warm by 4.8 degrees Celsius.
This includes a drastic change to land uses across the globe. Reducing emissions and switching to green forms of energy are also essential to prevent further warming.
Luckily, you can begin to help at a local level as well.
Using the proper attic insulation for your home can save you between 10 and 50% on your annual bill — this also means that you’re using your energy more efficiently, thus reducing your global footprint.
You can also make a number of small changes throughout your home. Conserving water, unplugging electronics when they’re not in use, and lowering your heat when you leave the house can help your bank account and contribute to lowering global emissions.
For example, switching to LED lighting uses only 15% of the energy needed by a standard halogen light. This means you’re helping your home become 85% more efficient just by switching your light bulbs to an eco-friendly alternative.
But humans are doing more than just increasing the global temperature. New reports have also revealed microplastics in the air as well as our water.
It’s estimated that Americans alone will discard 33.6 million tons of plastic waste annually. However, only 6.5% of that plastic is recycled.
Partaking in recycling and upcycling programs is also key in reducing this plastic pollution in our oceans and air. Using reusable bags instead of plastic bags can help reduce over 22,000 plastic bags from the environment.
As invertebrate populations continue to decline, eco-friendly efforts are more important now than ever.