Invertebrate biodiversity continues to decline in cropland

Invertebrate biodiversity continues to decline in cropland

Invertebrate biodiversity continues to decline in cropland

A recent study conducted by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) has unveiled a disconcerting trend: terrestrial insects and other invertebrates have been experiencing a steady decline in Great Britain over the past three decades. This decline is particularly evident in intensively farmed regions, despite the implementation of certain agri-environment schemes aimed at safeguarding biodiversity. Such biodiversity plays a vital role in providing humans with essential services, ranging from pollination to pest control.

The study focused on the impact of this decline on bees and spiders, which emerged as the most severely affected invertebrates. This could be attributed to their greater reliance on semi-natural habitats for sustenance and shelter. The researchers delved into citizen science data spanning from 1990 to 2019, encompassing 1,535 species including bees, hoverflies, ground beetles, ladybirds, true-bugs, and spiders.

The findings of the study revealed an overall decline in the distribution of invertebrates throughout Britain during the examined period. However, the decline was more pronounced in regions characterized by a high proportion of arable or horticultural crop cover. The transformation of our farming practices since the Second World War has been instrumental in enhancing food production to meet the needs of a burgeoning population, accomplished through intensive agricultural techniques such as mechanization, chemical usage, and converting once-wildflower meadows and hedgerows into farmland. Regrettably, this quest for increased productivity has exacted a substantial toll on biodiversity, as emphasized by the researchers behind this study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The study divulged several key findings. Across all species groups, areas with high cropland cover witnessed an average decline of 5% over the 30-year period, while areas with low cropland cover experienced a decline of approximately 2%. The group most significantly affected by these declines was spiders, with a decline of 7% in high cropland cover areas and 3% in low cropland cover areas. Bees faced a decline of around 4% in high cropland cover areas and approximately 1% in low cropland cover areas.

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