Insects could completely disappear within the next 100 years, dragging global ecosystems into a catastrophic collapse. The world is embarking on its sixth mass extinction, and the first global scientific review points to a grim outlook for the planet's insects, reports the Guardian. Massive declines have already been seen in large animals, but insects are going extinct eight times faster than birds, mammals, and reptiles. And although collapses in insect populations had been previously reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, this new report points to a global problem. The single largest cause of insect decline is loss of habitat, per New Scientist. Other factors include widespread pollution, including insecticides used in farming to factory emissions.
Insects are a vital food source for birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, meaning their disappearance could have dramatic, cascading effects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” an author of the new study tells the Guardian. Humanity would also struggle to survive. "If the insects disappear we're gonna disappear, too," a researcher tells Al Jazeera. "The whole agricultural system depends on insects that are most vulnerable to extinction to control the other insects which compete with us for our crops." Some species like horseflies and cockroaches are likely to explode in number, says the BBC. The report's authors recommend a "rethinking of agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage." (More insects stories.)