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Insect Armageddon: The appalling collapse of insect populations and a collaborative project to help combat it

Insect abundance has fallen by 75% over the last 27 years, according to a new study by journal Plos One. It revealed that flying insects surveyed on nature reserves in Germany have declined with the most likely cause being that the area surrounding the reserves has become hostile to them, in terms of the volume of pesticides and destruction of habitat. Interestingly, the decline has occurred irrespective of the habitat type. This raises many questions as to the serious implications on food webs, the impact on wildlife of changes in farming practice and essentially; for all life on Earth.

Guardian graphic | Source: Hallmann et al, PLOS ONE

 

This shocking study ties in with work that Stats4sd staff are doing with a CCRP project – Botanical Pesticides II, which involves scientists from The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Tanzania, as well as the National Resources Institute (University of Greenwich) and Kew Gardens in the UK.

The researchers are studying botanical pesticides, which have less impact on insect populations because they are designed to repel insects, not kill them. They are made from local and common plants and the active ingredients break down quickly, which is an environmental advantage, though it also means that farmers need to apply them often. Significantly, they are also far less toxic to people than artificial insecticides and hence safer to use and result in safer crops.

Photo: A farmer in northern Tanzania who has been testing plant extracts on his bean crop

Photo: A farmer in northern Tanzania who has been testing plant extracts on his bean crop

Stats4SD staff have been helping this project as part of the Research Methods Support programme by advising on the design of experiments involving farmers groups and in the analysis of the data collected, especially to ensure their data outputs meet the project aims. The poster below highlights some of the key processes and strategies taken by the project.

The project was renewed in 2012 for another 4 years of funding, and you can read more about its aims and outcomes here.  Based on the recently published study, it seems that the outputs of the team’s research may be even more important than we anticipated when the project started.


Credits
This post was co-authored by Tina Bhati and Dave Mills, with contributed material from Ric Coe.

Ric Coe
Author: Ric Coe

Ric’s main focus is on improving the quality and effectiveness of research for development using the application of statistical principles and ideas. He is particularly interested in research design, including the design of complex integrative research projects.