Consequence of climate change: Insects are also dying in the forests

Status: 4/4/2023 3:11 p.m

The numbers are alarming: According to a study by the Technical University of Darmstadt, the population of 60 percent of insects in German forests is declining. One reason for their disappearance is the changes caused by climate change.

There are not only fewer and fewer insects in fields or farmland, they are also increasingly missing in German forests. To this result comes a new one Study led by the Technical University (TU) Darmstadt.

According to this, the majority of the insect species analyzed in the forests suffered losses between 2008 and 2017. Overall, the Darmstadt researchers, together with colleagues from the TU in Munich, examined the development of 1805 insect species at 140 locations.

“Over 60 percent of the insect species studied were in decline,” explained Michael Staab, lead author of the study. Since this would shift the food web, the extinction of species would “very likely” affect all organisms in German forests, warned the biologist from the TU Darmstadt.

Forests with conifers particularly affected

According to the study, the number of insects fell particularly sharply in forests with a high proportion of conifers. Spruce or pine trees were mostly planted in the study areas and did not belong to the natural tree population. In contrast, the losses were lower in native beech forests.

Larger and more common insect species in particular suffered from a sharp decline in the number of individuals. Non-herbivorous insects are also more affected by the decline than herbivorous ones. In addition, insects lived in comparatively more stable populations within protected forests without forest use. Insect mortality in intensively managed forests, on the other hand, was higher.

Insects such as hornets, which do not eat purely plant-based food, are particularly affected.

consequence of climate change

“Our forests are in the process of changing drastically as a result of the climate crisis,” emphasized Nico Blüthgen, head of the Ecological Networks working group at TU Darmstadt. According to the researchers, targeted forest management, the promotion of natural tree species and reduced felling could lead to fewer insects dying in the future.

Forests make up around a third of the area in Germany. According to the company, the study was the most comprehensive study to date on insect mortality in Central European forests. The results were published in the journal “Communications Biology”.

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