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Biodiversity study shows loss of insect diversity in nature reserves due to surrounding farmland

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Germany is dedicated to preserving biodiversity. Great efforts are required in to halt and reverse the trend of biodiversity loss. Because, insect biomass in nature reserves has decreased by 75% since the 1990s. The link between agricultural land use and the decline of insect biomass in protected areas has long been obvious to biodiversity experts.

A research team examined the relationship between insect diversity and agricultural activity at the national border between nature reserves and farmland. The name of the research project is “DINA—Diversity of Insects in Nature Conservation Areas”. The project gathered unprecedented amounts of data on biodiversity and potential causes of damage at 21 representative observation sites.

The project documented plant and insect diversity using novel DNA analyses. It also gathered information on land use and pesticide contamination of soils and insects was gathered.

A preliminary assessment of the data set has been published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. “We can show for the first time with the new data that agricultural activity near nature reserves has a negative impact on insect diversity in protected areas,” says ISOE researcher Florian Dirk Schneider.

A close collaboration between science, nature conservation, and agriculture is required

But what are the possible solutions? “There are a variety of situations in German nature conservation areas. But solutions cannot be one-size-fits-all “Schneider explains. The scientists had a series of dialogue meetings with farmers and nature conservationists. The team discovered that communicating scientific data on the state of biodiversity and potential causes of insect harm does not always result in an action for insect protection. Measure implementation frequently fails due to a variety of obstacles.

The legal framework and funding opportunities are viewed as insufficient or even obstructive by practitioners. But it is not always possible to conclude from data sets collected across the country how well local insect populations fare and whether observed pollutant loads are problematic or not. This makes deciding on insect protection measures in agriculture and nature conservation difficult.

According to the study’s authors, collecting site-specific data on insect diversity is just as important for successful insect conservation. Because developing conservation measures in collaboration with all stakeholders. Close collaboration between science, agriculture, and nature conservation must also include data sharing and interpretation.

More information: Sebastian Köthe et al, Improving insect conservation management through insect monitoring and stakeholder involvement, Biodiversity and Conservation (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10531-022-02519-1

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