Next time you swat a housefly or squish an ant, remember that insects truly rule our planet, with an estimated 10 quintillion (that's 10 followed by 18 zeroes!) bugs crawling, creeping, and buzzing around the world at any given moment. And that's not even including 48,000 species of spiders, which are technically arachnids, not insects!
With the largest biomass of any terrestrial animal, there are approximately 1.4 billion bugs for every person on Earth, so they could collectively squash us any time they please. It's no wonder that with those kinds of numbers they play a vital role in our ecosystem and any calamity that might befall them due to climate change or cosmic disaster is intrinsically linked to the fate of mankind. But as scientists are now realizing in greater detail, their downfall and demise would spell certain doom for future humans.
Besides contributing to cleaning up waste products, feeding us either directly or indirectly through pollination, providing new medicines, fertilizing plant life, and being the entire foundation of the food chain for fish, birds, and mammals, insects keep the world running within their invisible kingdoms.
Now a new updated report from an international collective of 25 scientists published in the online journal Science Direct is issuing a foreboding warning that posits that if our species does not take immediate action against pollution, severe global warning, and habitat destruction, an insect apocalypse is imminent. It's not a new theory, but saving the planet's vast and vital bug population to avert an extinction-level event is an issue that won't fly away anytime soon and is only getting worse.
“Each species represents an unrepeatable part of the history of life,” the posse of professional scientists explained. “In turn, each species also interacts with others and their environment in distinctive ways, weaving a complex network that sustains other species, including us.”
Starting with a multi-pronged awareness attack, these concerned researchers offer up a number of solutions, including renewed bug valuation, popularizing insects by employing additional media coverage, and engaging in more comprehensive education in schools and society in general.
Another suggestion insists that insect conservationists can make a difference by communicating better with major decision makers, ecologists, stakeholders, developers, farmers, and land managers as our intertwined destinies become more apparent in the face of a sick planet displaying evidence of ill heath.
"The issue is that the human brain is not well equipped to assimilate and act upon perceived unseen and abstract themes such as insect conservation, which are nebulous and seemingly not relevant to everyday life," they wrote in the combined paper.
"Key is to have more expansive sustainable agriculture and forestry, improved regulation and prevention of environmental risks, and greater recognition of protected areas alongside agro-ecology in novel landscapes. Future-proofing insect diversity is now critical, with the benefits far reaching, including continued provision of valuable ecosystem services and the conservation of a rich and impressive component of Earth's biodiversity."
The message seems clear: Save the bugs = Save the planet = Save ourselves!