In UK, thousands of volunteer motorists confirm pest population collapse

TookThey estimate that they follow one another and all point to the same observation: a massive and rapid collapse of insect populations in Europe, a possible prelude to an environmental catastrophe on a scale that is difficult to imagine. . The Kent Wildlife Trust and The Invertebrate Conservation Trust (or “BugLife”) released the results of a study on Friday, 6 May, suggesting a loss of about 60% of flying insects in the United Kingdom between 2004 and 2021. This is not a problem for entomologists alone: ​​In addition to their intrinsic value, insects form one of the bases of the food chain of terrestrial ecosystems, pollinate crops and recycle nutrients in the soil.

Although particularly striking, such a collapse, in just seventeen years, does not surprise scientists. This is in line with the order of magnitude of the results obtained in recent years in other Western European countries. The originality of the work, conducted by two British foundations, lies in their protocol: the authors, led by ecologists from the Kent Wildlife Trust Lawrence Ball and Paul Tinsley-Marshall, used data received and transmitted by thousands of volunteer motorists with their smartphones. ,

The principle is simple. One application, Bugs Matter, allows volunteers to count the number of impacts of insects on their vehicle’s license plate, during a trip. Volunteers fill in the vehicle type, ensure their plate is clean before departure and the application is then submitted to the characteristics of the trip (start and end points, average speed, landscapes crossed, type of roads taken, travel time and date) is entered. weather, etc.). Upon arrival, a picture of the small frame – or “splash meter” (splatometer, in English) – attached to the front license plate allows you to count the number of insects killed during the trip. What is the purpose of “clean windshield syndrome”, which increasingly plagues motorists – especially people of a certain age.

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However, the program did not run continuously and only three measurement points are available. In 2004, data was collected for about 15,000 trips of about 1.4 million kilometres, or just less than 200,000 insects killed. The average number of invertebrates for each kilometer traveled was compared to data obtained in 2019 and 2021, with approximately 600 trips, 16,000 kilometres and 3,300 trips, respectively, representing approximately 195,000 kilometer trips to the UK. In 2004, license plates hit an average of 0.15 insects per kilometer, compared to about 0.062 in 2019 and 2021.

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