A loss of nature services is imminent
Due to their diverse specializations and enormous biomass, insects play a crucial role in almost all ecosystems. A decline in diversity or mass can lead to potentially serious consequences for society and the economy. This is because insects are central to services we receive from nature, known as ecosystem services.
One example is bees as pollinators for crops. But insects are also pollinators for countless other plants, ensuring that they are preserved in the long term. These plants in turn fulfill vital functions in the ecosystem, such as being someone’s food, or as erosion control. Both the quality as well as the quantity of these pollinations increases when more diverse insects are present.
Other examples of services provided by insects include the decomposition of organic matter, which promotes soil fertility, or the control of pests of our crops.
Decline worldwide also confirmed in Switzerland.
A loss of insects is observed globally, and is now also confirmed in Switzerland. Insect populations have declined especially in the producing midlands, but also in the Jura and the Alps.
A slight increase has only been observed for heat-loving species. The latter in turn compete with other species and thus reduce biodiversity. So far, the focus has been on species that are already considered endangered and are on the IUCN red list (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). However, data is still lacking for many insect groups.
Habitat loss as a key driver
For a rich variety of insects, we need a diverse landscape: varied structures, near-natural habitats and ecologically intact areas. Various causes impair these requirements. Where humans intervene, the habitat quality first decreases before they disappear altogether. The food supply is reduced, fertilizers and pesticides are used, habitat structures are removed, and farming is generally hostile to insects. In addition, there is a lack of habitat connectivity, the climate crisis and invasive species.
Twelve actions to counteract insect mortality in Switzerland
- Promote species: Specific measures for particularly endangered insects
- Communicate knowledge: Prevent unintentional degradation due to orderliness, lack of interest, or ignorance.
- Minimize pesticides: Protect non-target organisms on land and in water
- Manage with care: Avoid harmful practices such as leaf blowers or string mowers.
- Reduce light pollution: Introduce insect-friendly LED lamps, as well as temporary time-outs
- Reduce nutrient inputs: Adjust agricultural production intensity
- Avert climate change: Specialized species are particularly at risk
- Preserve hotspots: Protect existing close-to-nature areas
- Enhance habitats: Declare at least 1/3 of the national territory as priority areas
- Improve monitoring: Supplement existing programs and fill gaps
- Intensify research: Focus on little-studied insect groups
- Use levers: consistent integration of biodiversity aspects in all policy areas
What you can implement directly today!
Some of these twelve measures can only be implemented through political action, but some of them can also be implemented in one’s own environment: A tidy garden and night-lighting should be avoided. Food from organic production reduces the use of pesticides and nutrients. And anyone can raise the issue among their friends. Start today!