Brad Lister: Are we facing an insect apocalypse?
When Professor Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rico to track insect populations, he found he was only catching a fraction of the biomass he’d seen forty years ago. When he analysed what he’d caught, he saw a 98 per cent decline in insects on the ground. What’s causing this huge loss, and what does it mean for the future of our planet?
When Brad Lister first studied lizards in the Luquillo Forest in Puerto Rico in the 1970s, the sticky plates he put out each day came back black with insects. When he returned in the early 2010s, the same traps would catch only one or two struggling bugs.
When he analysed the insect biomass, he found that on the ground, 98 per cent of the insects had vanished. In the canopy, 80 per cent were gone. His study was published late last year, and shortly after, reports from other scientists and concerned citizens came flooding in. Studies showed the insect population in Germany had been similarly devastated. A pilot, who, decades ago, had to wipe his windscreen clear of bugs after flying in the arctic circle now has a clean screen after every trip.
In this episode of the Science Focus Podcast, Helen Glenny ask Professor Brad Lister how alarmed we should be about this decline in insect numbers, what a world without insects would look like, what implications this has for the human population, and whether there is anything that we can do ourselves to ensure the insects around us thrive?
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