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This is the first time that theAcademy of Sciences plays the role of whistleblower on biodiversity. She had long remained cautious about global warming, undoubtedly too long. But today, for these scientists, like Philippe Grandcolas, Director of the Institute of Systematics, Evolution, Biodiversity at the CNRS, there are already many studies on the decline of butterflies, bees, beetles and all other insects. They have existed for at least 400 million years on Earth, they represent 80% of the species that we know. Their disappearance puts us at great risk. Yet these scientists don’t feel taken seriously. Counting butterflies, is it really more important or more urgent?
Today, the general public is quite familiar with the role of pollinator of the flowers of bees but also of bumblebees, butterflies for the plants which give us 70% of our food: fruits, vegetables, cereals … And without insects, no degradation of organic matter. Our fields would be covered with cow dung. Kind of like what happened in New Zealand with the arrival of settlers and their cattle. The country had to import beetles from Europe because it was overrun with flies. Their local dung beetles could not bury them in the ground.
Insects also play an essential role in water filtration. Without them, Covid-19 would not be the biggest of our health problems. Economists have also quantified that they provide us with free services of several hundred billion euros.
We talk more about wasps, mosquitoes, hornets that invade us than gnats that have disappeared from our windshields. And the observation of their decline is the subject of heated debate among scientists. To properly count insects, it takes time, take the same ones and not subspecies, come back to the same place regularly. A rather well-done study published four years ago in PLOS one showed that 75% of the flying insects in nature reserves in Germany had disappeared within 30 years.
But last year, a meta-analysis made by German researchers and published in Science explained that at the global level, the finding was not so alarming. Aquatic insects are even doing better and better. Except today several French scientists dispute this analysis and its method. Their colleagues counted insects where we had created ponds, so inevitably they find more than in previous years. German scientists told them that they just had to redo their meta-analysis …
Science often has trouble with consensus, it must be said that it advances with doubt. But this search for consensus is sought by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the international platform of experts on biodiversity, such as the IPCC in its climate reports. Except that two years ago, when the summary of the biodiversity report was voted on verbatim, the authors and delegates of the member countries of this platform, including China, failed to agree. on the decline of insects. The Academy of Sciences believes that there is no need to wait any longer for a consensus to avoid their decline. In its opinion, it directly targets the fight against deforestation, the artificialization of soils and the use of pesticides. In particular, the neonicotinoids which will make a comeback in certain French beet fields next month.