In this week’s Nature News round-up, a new study that brings fresh insights into the catastrophic but often unnoticed losses to insect populations worldwide. There’s also good news from an unlikely source: the GCSE syllabus, and an innovative journalistic project that improves understanding of the policy choices required to combat climate change. 

Nature news: Small creatures, great loss

We already knew that insect populations have suffered drastic declines in recent decades – so drastic that some have called it an ‘insect apocalypse’. Now new research by experts at University College London and published in Nature this week gives one of our clearest pictures yet of the scale of loss. Drawing on data on nearly 20,000 species at around 6,000 locations, the researchers found that insect numbers have fallen by up to 49% in areas with high intensity agriculture and significantly warming temperatures. Insect loss matters not just for their own sake, but because human health and food security are threatened by the loss of species, in particular pollinators, lead researcher Dr Charlie Outhwaite tells Helen Briggs of the BBC. There are some glimmers of hope. Places without intensive agriculture and where the impact of climate change is not yet being felt appear to have relatively stable insect populations – a sign that if places can be put aside for nature, the current rate of decline need not be inevitable. 

A* for Nature

From 2025, school pupils in England will be able to study natural history as a GCSE subject, UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced this week. According to the Department for Education, the new qualification will cover “organisms and environments, environmental and sustainability issues and help pupils gain a deeper knowledge of the natural world around them.” Those who study the subject will also get hands-on experience of fieldwork to prepare for them for a potential future career working to protect nature. FFI awaits their job applications in a few years’ time…

The new qualification will enable young people to learn more about our natural world and how to conserve it. Credit: Bjorn Olesen

Interesting reads: The biodiversity threshold

Thought-provoking long read by Elizabeth Claire Alberts in Mongabay on the increasingly well-known concept of “planetary boundaries” – thresholds beyond which we cannot change planetary systems without wreaking fundamental, irreversible change – and how they apply to biodiversity loss. Alberts poses the question: “Will there come a point when humanity will have pushed biodiversity past a point of being able to recover, imperilling the very stability of Earth’s operating system and putting humanity and possibly all life as we know it at risk?” The answer: it’s complicated. But all experts agree on one thing. As Garry Peterson, a professor of environmental sciences at Stockholm University (quoted in the article) puts it: “we’re on a terrible trajectory with biodiversity, and the only way of dealing with this is very radical change.”

Around one million plant and animal species are currently at risk of extinction. Credit: Jeremy Holden/Fauna & Flora International

Gaming the climate

And finally, an absolutely superb and deeply-researched online game from the Financial Times which puts you at the helm of global policymaking decisions between now and 2050. Can you keep the planet’s temperature rise below the Paris target of 1.5C this century, while keeping public opinion and political goodwill onside? Make sure you choose options that protect forests and restore nature – unsurprisingly, it really helps.

We all want to change the world

Help us create a brighter future for our planet.

Support us