Three-quarters of the total insect population lost in protected nature reserves

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A fresh call by the Christian conservation charity for more to consider joining their "eco churches" initiative was prompted after a new study concluded flying insect populations have been "decimated" in Germany.

It showed an average annual decline of 76% over the course of the study, and as much as 82% in mid-summer. "This decrease has always been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought".

But this study suggests a sharper decline than previously thought.

"If we were to lose the insects, we would lose most of our crops, we would lose all the flowers from the countryside, and we'd lose most of the bird life, the mammal life, and so on", Goulson told The World in an interview.

The authors also sampled weather and temperature patterns, plant inventories, and the type of preserve- heathland or grassland-but no factor alone could explain the disappearance of flying insects.

"If total flying insect biomass is genuinely declining at this rate [about 6% per year], it is extremely concerning", she said.

The study is based on measurements of the biomass of all insects trapped at 63 nature protection areas in Germany over 27 years since 1989.

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And they said there was an urgent need to uncover the causes and extent of the decline in all airborne insects.

"This study lumps all flying insects together", research teaching fellow in entomology at Sydney University's School of Life and Environmental Studies, Tanya Latty, said to CNN Thursday.

Mr Goulsen said a possible explanation would be insects dying when they fly out of nature reserves into farmland "with very little to offer for any wild creature".

For Nocera, one follow up study would be to assess the trend in forests and wetland areas, which are among the most productive areas for insect populations. It is likely that the results are representative for large parts of Europe and other parts of the world where nature reserves are enclosed by a mostly intensively used agricultural landscape.

The exact causes of the decline are still unclear.

While noting they had not "exhaustively analyzed the climatic variables" that may have impacted populations, such as "prolonged droughts, or lack of sunshine especially in low temperatures", they also suggested "agricultural intensification (e.g. pesticide usage, year-round tillage, increased use of fertilizers and frequency of agronomic measures) that we could not incorporate in our analyses, may form a plausible cause".