BY VISHAL GULATI
New Delhi: Insect decline and its cascading effects on migratory species feeding on them will be on the agenda for the first time at a UN summit on migratory species beginning in Gujarat this week, organisers said on Thursday. The 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP13) that will see participation of 129 countries will run from February 15 to 22 in Gandhinagar. It is the first time India will host a CMS COP.
About half of all insect species are rapidly declining. A third face extinction, including generalist species, which were once common and widespread, says CMS, an environmental treaty under the aegis of the UN Environment Programme. IPBES highlighted the dramatic loss of biodiversity and biomass in its global assessment report. A recent review of the drivers of insect decline has estimated that, at the current rate, 40 per cent of the world's insect species might become extinct over the next few decades.
The European Union presented its draft resolution and decision to CMS COP13 to better understand the insect die-off and its effects on migratory species and identify possible solutions to prevent further decline of insect populations. The main drivers causing insect decline are habitat change and loss, pollution through synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, invasive species and pathogens, as well as climate change.
Insect biodiversity plays a vital role for functioning ecosystems, especially for insectivorous migratory species such as birds and bats. According to CMS, despite recent developments in research on insect decline and its drivers, knowledge gaps remain about the conservation status and population trends of insects in some regions. Furthermore, attention has only recently started to be paid to the decline of insects as their numbers worldwide continue to fall dramatically.
To combat the drivers of insect decline, the draft resolution recommends a series of actions. Increased scientific research is needed to better understand the impact of insect decline on migratory insectivorous animals. Scientists recommend a precautionary approach with respect to the use of pesticides, especially in habitats important for migratory birds and bats. They also advise caution so that non-target insects that are the food of migratory insectivores are not harmed. Actions are required to conserve insects, restore their habitats and address the causes of decline.
An important prerequisite to achieving the goal is raising awareness among farmers regarding the drivers of insect decline. Parties to EUROBATS, the agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats, have ready adopted resolutions discussing insect decline as a threat, highlighting the need for guidelines for urgent actions. Providing further guidance related to the broader field of insects is vital for all migratory species that feed on them.
The insect decline agenda is scheduled for discussion on February 19. At the triennial conference, more than 1,200 delegates from 129 countries will take decisions on the conservation of migratory wildlife, which is in significant decline worldwide. According to the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, one million species are at risk of extinction, including migratory species listed under CMS. CMS COP13 will be opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 17, marking India's commitment to tackling the loss of biodiversity and the protection of vulnerable species globally.
The UN Wildlife Conference in India will also kick off the 'super year' for biodiversity, which will culminate in the adoption of a new global biodiversity framework in Kunming in China during the 15th UN Biodiversity Conference in October 2020.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at email@example.com)