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Meta-analysis reveals declines in terrestrial but increases in freshwater insect abundances

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Science  24 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6489, pp. 417-420
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax9931

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Local drivers of decline matter

Recent studies have reported alarming declines in insect populations, but questions persist about the breadth and pattern of such declines. van Klink et al. compiled data from 166 long-term surveys across 1676 globally distributed sites and confirmed declines in terrestrial insects, albeit at lower rates than some other studies have reported (see the Perspective by Dornelas and Daskalova). However, they found that freshwater insect populations have increased overall, perhaps owing to clean water efforts and climate change. Patterns of variation suggest that local-scale drivers are likely responsible for many changes in population trends, providing hope for directed conservation actions.

Science, this issue p. 417; see also p. 368

Abstract

Recent case studies showing substantial declines of insect abundances have raised alarm, but how widespread such patterns are remains unclear. We compiled data from 166 long-term surveys of insect assemblages across 1676 sites to investigate trends in insect abundances over time. Overall, we found considerable variation in trends even among adjacent sites but an average decline of terrestrial insect abundance by ~9% per decade and an increase of freshwater insect abundance by ~11% per decade. Both patterns were largely driven by strong trends in North America and some European regions. We found some associations with potential drivers (e.g., land-use drivers), and trends in protected areas tended to be weaker. Our findings provide a more nuanced view of spatiotemporal patterns of insect abundance trends than previously suggested.

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