"We know how to repair roads and other components of our physical infrastructure, but our biological infrastructure is vulnerable to degradation too," said Losey, an applied insect ecologist. "If we do not take care of it, it will break down and could seriously impact the economy."
"In fact in many places - crop pollination, for example - the cracks in the infrastructure are already showing," says Vaughn.
Using published data, Losey and Vaughan compared the values of each service at current levels of function to theoretical levels if these serves were absent. For wildlife nutrition, the researchers used census data on how much is spent annually on observing or hunting wildlife, and what proportion of the animals in those categories depend on insects for nutrition. For pest control, they looked at the amount of damage now incurred by pests, and, knowing that 65 percent of pests are controlled by other insects, calculated the losses if predators or parasites weren't going after their prey.
For pollination, they looked at the value of the crops known to be insect pollinated and subtracted the value of those pollinated by domesticated honeybees. For dung burial, they estimated the losses if dung beetles did not clean nearby plants and cattle environments, which would deter cattle from eating the plants and attract more flies and parasites that would have to be controlled. They also calculated how much fertilizer would be needed to compensate for the nitrogen not being returned to the soil so promptly by the beetles.
The analysis did not include such important insect services as decomposing carcasses, garbage and trees (thereby decreasing the likelihood of forest fires); producing honey, shellac, dyes and other products; being used in medicine or as a source of food for animals other than those used in hunting, fishing a
Source:Cornell University News Service