Beyond the Bees
Every creature in the natural world has a very specific and equally as important role. With organisms all interacting with one another to fulfill one giant puzzle of an ecosystem it is crucial that all parts of the puzzle, especially the smallest ones, remain intact, This is the case of not only the bees, but all of the flying insects across the globe that help bridge the gaps in our global ecosystem. With bees and many other small insects facing the brink of total extinction, the world has a lot to think about and scientists are worried.
Various elements within the world’s ecosystems are constantly moving up and down, fluctuating in unison. Everything seemingly happens in complete chaos to the naked eye but in fact, it all comes together in an exact science. Although ecosystems are seen by the scientific community as generally resilient, they are still vulnerable to suffering irreparable damage, causing what is known by researchers as an ecological collapse.
Scientists speculate that appositely 305 million years ago, what is known as the Carboniferous rainforest collapse, led to the extinction of many ancient plant and animal species. Such a collapse can be linked to something still threatening the world’s ecosystems today, climate change.
Climate change in today’s socio-political sphere is often referenced as a new concept but it, in fact, has been taking place and greatly affecting the planet time and time again in some capacity or another. A recent historical study backs up previous claims that the collapse of the Ptolemaic Empire in Ancient Egypt in 30 BC may have been the result of an environmental and climate-related disaster, and the ruling elite’s failure to deal with it. This entire dynamic sounds eerily similar to what the modern leadership of today is facing.
The climate change of today is on a much larger scale than back in Egyptian times. With the introduction of the industrial revolution, the human impact on climate change has become increasingly more and more prominent. There have been many warning signs of this throughout the years to the point where the scientific community and the general public as a whole are starting to become aware of just how incredibly important the issue of climate change is. The rising temperatures, melting ice-caps, the increase in extreme weather events and ocean acidification all point to man-made climate change.
Unfortunately, the animal population has been suffering the effects of climate change for far longer. Aside from the polar bears in the artic, now other animals under threat include the Antarctic’s Adélie penguins and North Atlantic cod. The beautiful Central American golden toad has already become extinct, a victim of climate change in its habitat – cloud forests. Much more will join the list along with these animals if climate change is not addressed on a global level and fast.
In the case of the North Atlantic cod, the consequences to humans of the creature’s decreasing numbers being seen clearly today. Fish has become increasingly harder and harder to find within the normal fishing area so fishing teams are having to venture into different waters, further disrupting the ecosystems. There has been less and less fish available for consumers worldwide and fish are not the only ones that have been in a huge decline.
The honey bee population has been in decline in Europe and the U.S. for the past decade. Bees are not just necessary for honey but they are also needed to pollinate almost every crop that is consumed worldwide. From luxury goods like chocolate, almonds, wine, and coffee, to your store-bought veggies and fruits. All of these are at risk of disappearing if the honeybees disappear first. Bees are just one of the many flying critters that shape the world as we know it.
Flying Bugs in Decline
In October 2017, however, the results of a 27-year-long study on that category of insect were made available. It showed that in Germany at least, flying bug numbers have plummeted by more than 75 percent over the 27 years of conducting the study. This is incredibly frightening considering most of the larger animal ecosystem depends on flying insects as a direct source of food. The writing is on the wall and scientists are saying it doesn’t look very good.
Biologist Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University in England told U.K. newspaper The Guardian, “Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline.” He added, “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”
The more diversity we have with our insects the more stable out food supply becomes, so when there is an extreme lack of biodiversity, there is nothing but trouble ahead.
Caspar Hallmann, another co-author of the study, from Radboud University Nijmegen, spoke to CNN. He said, “These are locations meant to preserve biodiversity, but still we see the insects slipping out of our hands.” There are plenty of wild animals known to be on the endangered species list but when it comes to insects there seems to be a total lack of understanding and lack of interest to protect them.
Natural Pest Control
This means the results have massive implications for humankind. Not only do flying insects pollinate about 80 percent of the crops that make up our food supply, they also act as a natural form of pest control. Keeping the rest of the animal populations in check is something humans have not really had to worry about on a global level. But without the flying insects, there is nothing to restore this balance. But pests are not the only thing that would become out of balance in our ecosystems.
Loss of Birds
Flying bugs make up the diet of many bird and animal species and the loss of these insects would adversely affect whole ecosystems. In Germany, birds are already being seriously affected. German government figures for 2013 show a 15 percent drop in its bird population over the previous 12 years. Without birds there would be a massive spike in pests that would go without being put in check by a predatory bird population, birds also work in some ecosystems as pollinators.
A Bugs World
Flying bugs and birds making up two of the largest groups of natural pollinators also support most of the worlds ecosystems and food supplies. Many scientists agree that aside from climate change drastically affecting the decrease in these two populations, there is another antagonist at play.
Most likely the decline in these species it is a combination of factors – habitat destruction and pesticide use, however, are the most obvious. With the use of pesticides that flying insects and birds cannot adapt to quick enough, this doubles down on the populations with the negative effects of climate change to speed along the extinction process even more. Scientists, however, have an important message for those who are concerned to keep in mind.
As Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, an Oregon-based insect conservation charity, told The Washington Post. said, “I see tens of thousands of everyday people engaged in managing their own little piece of Earth in a better way.” So, the answer may well be another case of think global, act locally. The smallest changes in our daily lives truly do help build a stronger tomorrow.