Insects scuttle, chew and fly through the world around us. Humans rely on them to pollinate plants, prey on insects that we don’t get along with, and to be movers and shakers for Earth’s ecosystems. It’s hard to imagine a world without insects.
About 45 percent of the U.S. is relatively undisturbed by human beings. These natural areas, such as the forest patches of the Southeast, provide homes for many species today. But those species will undoubtedly need to move in the near future as temperatures continue warming and precipitation shifts. Is there some way we can plan for and aid species to adapt as the climate changes?
It’s unlikely that presidential candidates will ever utter the word “biodiversity” while campaigning this year. Yet among emerging environmental challenges, none has fewer facts or more enduring threats than the large-scale loss of biodiversity. That’s why we need a visionary investment in fundamental exploration to create knowledge and options.
Today rates of allergic, autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases are rising dramatically in Western societies. If that weren’t bad enough, we are beginning to understand that many psychiatric disorders, including depression, migraine headaches and anxiety disorders, are associated with inflammation. Perhaps the most startling observation is that our children are afflicted with the same inflammatory problems, contributing to the fact that over 40 percent of US children are on medications for some chronic condition.
Insects, which include more than a million described species, represent roughly two-thirds of the biodiversity on Earth. But they have a big PR problem – many think of insects as little more than crop-eating, disease-carrying jumper-munchers. But in reality, species fitting this bill are but a tiny part of an enormous picture.