German nature preserves have lost 75 percent of their flying insects

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"This decrease has always been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought", Hallmann said in a statement.

"The fact that flying insects are decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an even more alarming discovery", Hans de Kroon, researcher at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said in a news release. Researchers measured the weight, also known as the biomass, of the insect catch from every Malaise trap to draw conclusions about the drop in insect numbers.

In recent years, biologists have begun to cite the "windshield phenomenon" as a measure of the decline, noting that they are no longer scraping splattered insects from their auto windshields after lengthy drives.

"This study lumps all flying insects together", she said, which gives researchers a more accurate picture of the overall decline. "Yet, this dramatic decline has occurred", Hallmann said in a statement.

The decline is independent from habitat type and can not be explained by changes in weather, land use or habitat characteristics.

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"However", he continued, "when you get an over 75 percent decline in total insect biomass, you know this is not due to a few or vulnerable species".

Latty says it's particularly worrying that the study recorded the declines in protected areas, meaning that for agricultural or urban areas the trend could be even more pronounced. They also suggested "agricultural intensification", including the use of pesticides, increased use of fertilizers and year-round tillage, could be a "plausible cause" for the decline.

They tracked the rapid decline across 96 unique location-year combinations in Germany, which is "representative of Western European low-altitude nature protection areas embedded in a human-dominated landscape", as they wrote in the peer-reviewed study, published in the journal PLOS ONE.

An estimated 80 percent of wild plants species are pollinated by insects, and more than half of birds rely on insects as a food sources, according to the study.

While no corresponding data over the same study period is available for non-flying insects, "we can just hope they are faring better, but we have no reason to believe that is the case", Hallman said. "As entire ecosystems are dependent on insects for food and as pollinators, it places the decline of insect eating birds and mammals in a new context".