Reports of stark declines in invertebrate biomass prompted attention-grabbing news headlines about an ‘insect apocalypse’, fuelling public and scientific interest in the insect biodiversity crisis. However, substantial discussion has ensued regarding the magnitude and generality of these losses. In this Viewpoint, five researchers offer their views on the insect decline debate.
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N.B. receives support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) (Biodiversity Exploratories SPP 1374, Reassembly FOR 5207) and Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (Feda Initiative, BioDivKultur). L.V.D. receives support from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) (NE/V007173/1). M.L.F. receives support from the US National Science Foundation (DEB-2114793). C.L.O. receives support from NERC (NE/V006533/1). E.M.S. receives support from the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) Academic Research Fund Tier 2 grant (grant no. MOE-T2EP30221–0020).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Nico Blüthgen is a professor for ecological networks at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany. Research projects from his lab and collaborators include land-use effects on insect communities, their interactions and functional roles in different ecosystems, from forests or grasslands in Germany to tropical rainforests in Ecuador. In the Ecuadorian Chocó, he currently studies multiple aspects of natural forest recovery from agricultural land.
Lynn Dicks is a professor of ecology at the University of Cambridge, UK. Her PhD was on the structure and functioning of flower-visiting insect communities, and she now leads research on insect conservation and management of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. She was a Co-ordinating Lead Author of the IPBES Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production in 2016.
Matthew Forister is a professor in the Biology Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. Research in his lab focuses on insect ecology and evolution, in particular on the conservation of butterflies in the western United States. Forister and his students are now overseeing part of the Shapiro monitoring programme, adding to over five decades of butterfly observations across northern California.
Charlotte Outhwaite is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, University College London. Her research on insect biodiversity change encompasses large-scale patterns and responses to major pressures. Her lab uses invertebrates as model systems to help address the challenges and opportunities associated with conservation, management and restoration of human-modified landscapes.
Eleanor Slade is an Assistant Professor at the Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and PI of the Tropical Ecology and Entomology Lab (https://teelabntu.wixsite.com/home). Her research explores the links between invertebrate biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and community interactions. The broader goal of her work is to solve challenges and opportunities associated with conservation, management and restoration of human-modified landscapes.
Global Insect Threat-Response Synthesis: https://glitrs.ceh.ac.uk/
New York Times coverage of insect apocalypse: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/27/magazine/insect-apocalypse.html
Status of Insects Research Coordination Network: https://statusofinsects.github.io/index.html
The Atlantic article on the insect decline debate: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/02/insect-apocalypse-really-upon-us/583018/
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Blüthgen, N., Dicks, L.V., Forister, M.L. et al. Insect declines in the Anthropocene. Nat Rev Earth Environ 4, 683–686 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-023-00478-x