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Mass Extinction of Insects May Be Occurring Undetected

From National GepgraphicThe term “endangered species” typically conjures up images of charismatic animals—tigers, pandas, orangutans, whales, condors. But a new study says that the vast majority of species on the verge of extinction is in fact humble insects.

The study estimates that up to 44,000 bugs of all varieties could have been wiped off the face of the Earth during the last 600 years. And hundreds of thousands more insect species could be lost over the next 50 years. Only about 70 insect extinctions have been documented since the 15th century, possibly because many insects have been poorly studied.

The truth is that more often than not it is the small seemingly insignificant organisms that are the most important. Insects, fungus, algae, bacteria, are all usually more ecologically important than large majestic animals like whales or the giant panda. It is very difficult to get funding to study organisms that are not large and charismatic, so most of these incredible important species go understudies.

17,000 and 100,000 species go extinct every year, very few of these are species which the public cares about, but their roles in various ecosystems cannot be denied.

Current extinction levels are the highest since 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs went extinct: the last mass extinction event. Many ecologists are now saying that we are currently in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event, and the loss of biodiversity threatens our very survival.

The loss of biodiversity must be slowed, but we cannot forget the seemingly insignificant species, as they are usually the most important.

4 Responses to Mass Extinction of Insects May Be Occurring Undetected

  1. I feel so depressed reading this and worry about my grandchildren, when they become adults, and so on.
    It can’t keep going like this. Cutting down trees, bad for forest animals, bad because the trees are not there to use the carbon in the air. It is one never ending merry-go-round and was never meant to be like this.

  2. The Earth has been down this road before. In fact, we have had five great mass extinctions, with each leading to a greater biodiversity afterwords.

    Here’s a really good article that goes over each one:

    http://alcwi.com/wordpress/our-extinction-clock-is-ticking

    Oddly enough, it relates how dinosaurs were already disappearing before the great meteorite struck, and then, like a light switch, mammals took off!

    Perhaps this means its the age of another new order unfolding … the birds, perhaps? Who knows. The interesting note about each major extinction that I have read on many sites is that each leads to a new order (amphibian, reptile, mammal, etc) becoming predominant over the Earth.

    With any luck, we won’t go back to a dinosaur era, as I REALLY don’t want to be a lunchbox for one of those big fellas. :)

  3. and then, like a light switch, mammals took off!

    Well yes and no. If one takes a geological perspective, then yes. But if one looks at it on a human time scale, then no, it took a very long time for mammals to recover and become dominant.

    Which brings us an interesting point, biodiversity loss, is not something to be worried about on a geologic time scale, specie s will die, but other will take their place. But on a human time scale, the large number of ecosystem services that we depend on may be destroyed, and that will have dire consequences to human civilization.

    Life will persevere no matter what we do, human life and the quality of human civilization depend greatly on our actions.

  4. Perhaps that’s man’s biggest folly. We worry so much about the planet and neglect worrying about ourselves. What has always amazed me is how we can make changes in years that take nature thousands to accomplish … if only we could learn to make changes that benefited us more in the long run. Sadly, as a species, we are more born to hindsight than we are foresight.

    I was reading more from this site and came across something seeming to say the same thing you just said. Here is a link to the article, but you can skip past that as I just posted it so I wouldn’t get nabbed for quoting it and not crediting the original author. Here’s the article link:

    http://alcwi.com/wordpress/earth-6-0-the-rebirth-of-our-ecosystem

    And here’s the part I was talking about:

    “It’s almost ironic then, that we speak of global disasters with the frame of mind that we are damaging the planet or endangering other species. The fact is, our actions can damage ourselves, and we need to come to grips with that. Worse yet, life on Earth is a lottery system where we could do everything right and still wind up a footnote in the fossil record.

    Unless a cosmic calamity of epic proportions occurs, the Earth will outlive us, as will many other creatures around us. They will survive because they practice survival on a daily basis; whereas, we just continue to dig ourselves a deeper hole into which we will someday bury our whole civilization.”

    The article as a whole is talking about our dependence on technology, but in a sense we depend on all of the creatures around us to survive, so it kind of still applies.

    Regardless, we are always one step from extinction. Any one step in the wrong direction could set off a cascade of events that would end our future. That’s why we need to keep looking for the signs of an ecosystem in distress and look for ways to fix it – before it breaks us.

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