Researchers will conduct a nationwide study to assess the health of the UK’s insect population in a bid to advise on policies that can help to protect insects post-Brexit.
There are growing concerns that insect populations are in widespread decline around Europe and beyond and although the reasons behind these declines are inconclusive, intensive agriculture and climate change are thought to major culprits.
Insects play a number of important roles in our ecosystems, they underpin the natural world and support human civilisation.
Based on this, the researchers have been awarded £2.3m from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to provide definitive evidence on whether insects are in decline and to understand the key drivers threatening their existence.
The researchers will undertake the most comprehensive analysis to date and will draw on three different types of data – scientific monitoring, volunteer wildlife recorders, and high-tech sensors.
The project, which will be led by researchers at the University of Leeds will then model how different policy options could counter these effects. It is hoped that the findings of this study will make an important contribution to the UK’s biodiversity conservation strategy now it is no longer part of the European Union.
The researchers believe that the new set of environmental and agricultural management rules and incentives being designed after Brexit could provide an opportunity to address the drivers of decline in insects and other wildlife.
Project lead Professor Bill Kunin, from Leeds’ School of Biology, said: ‘Insects are the backbone of a healthy, functioning environment, so it is absolutely vital that we look after them.
‘Whilst past agri-environmental policies were supposed to help wildlife by incentivising environmentally friendly practises, in reality, the conservation benefits were often pretty minimal. Despite the substantial subsidies, it was often only the relatively common species that experienced any benefits.
‘Through our new project, we hope to provide a step-change in data on UK insects, to inform evidence-based policies that help nature, and thus humans, to thrive.’
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