Ecological Armageddon? Scientists criticize media coverage of insect study that raised questions about farm pesticide use

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Results of a study of insects in protected areas across Germany earned dramatic headlines warning of “ecological Armageddon”.

[T]he conclusions of the researchers were more nuanced than media coverage implied, according to other insect specialists.

Importantly, the study did not measure insect populations, as most articles claimed, but insect biomass. In other words, the researchers measured the insects caught in traps by weight, not by number, nor species.


Professor Alexandra Klein, head of nature conservation and landscape ecology at the University of Freiburg in Germany, pointed out that many of the sites were surveyed only once over the 27-year period of the study, and that the areas of land surveyed, despite being designated as protected, were small and degraded.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Greenpeace, environmental activists spread misinformation on honeybees and pesticides

In a blog on the German study, Manu Saunders, an ecologist at the Charles Stuart University in Australia, pointed out similar issues with the research as Professor Klein, and said it was misleading to link the study with collapses in pollinators, or declines in butterflies, as much media coverage had done.


However, she wrote that the study was still an important scientific story: “Yes, insects are in trouble. We know that overuse of agricultural chemicals, particularly pesticides, and intensification of agricultural landscapes have negative effects on non-target insects.”

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Insect armageddon – the devil is in the detail

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