Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 5, Issue 9, pp 1047–1058

Insects on the brink of a major discontinuity

  • Michael J. Samways

Population surges and local extinctions are not uncommon among insects. In response to climatic changes in the past, insects have often shifted their ranges. This long-term range shifting and the vagaries of short-term weather makes reserve selection unrealistically rigid for many species. Although some insect species are surviving in reserves, others have disappeared from such small areas because of adverse weather. In contrast, many other insects depend on localized disturbance for survival. In response to anthropogenic disturbance, some native insects have become more abundant and widespread, such as Orthoptera in response to grazing and burning, and some Odonata in response to aquatic weeds and water impoundment. The effect of some exotic invasive insects on some native ecosystems is of major concern. Human-induced insect population crashes and species extinctions are becoming more common and widespread, and exacerbated by the synergistic effect of the various local impacts with global changes. A major insect population and species extinction discontinuity is beginning to take place. Yet, there is also an increase in range and abundance of some other insects. The world is becoming increasingly species-poorer and more homogenous in its insect fauna.


insects populations landscapes conservation discontinuity 


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© Chapman & Hall 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Samways
    • 1
  1. 1.Invertebrate Conservation Research Centre, Department of Zoology and EntomologyUniversity of NatalScottsvilleSouth Africa

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