Authors: Losey, John E.; Vaughan, Mace
Source: BioScience, Volume 56, Number 4, April 2006, pp. 311-323(13)
Publisher: American Institute of Biological Sciences
In this article we focus on the vital ecological services provided by insects. We restrict our focus to services provided by “wild” insects; we do not include services from domesticated or mass-reared insect species. The four insect services for which we provide value estimates—dung burial, pest control, pollination, and wildlife nutrition—were chosen not because of their importance but because of the availability of data and an algorithm for their estimation. We base our estimations of the value of each service on projections of losses that would accrue if insects were not functioning at their current level.We estimate the annual value of these ecological services provided in the United States to be at least $57 billion, an amount that justifies greater investment in the conservation of these services.And from the authors' conclusion:
... our findings lead us to espouse three qualitative guidelines. First, cost-free or relatively inexpensive measures are almost certainly justified to maintain and increase current service levels. Examples include volunteer construction of nest boxes for wild pollinators [butterfly houses?] and the inclusion of a diverse variety of native plant species in plantings for bank or soil stabilization and site restoration (Shepherd et al. 2003,Vaughan et al. 2004). Second, actions or investments that are estimated to have an economic return at or slightly below the break-even point, such as the use of less toxic pesticides, are probably justified because of their nontarget benefits. Third, actions that lead to substantial decreases in biodiversity should be avoided because of the high probability of a major disruption in essential services.The full text of the article is available in PDF format for free from the BioScience Web site.
Once the benefits of insect-provided services are realized, there may be some call for increased funding to conserve rare insects through the Endangered Species Act. Insects are certainly underrepresented and underfunded through this legislation, and increased funding could save many rare insect species from extinction. However, while increasing funds targeted for the conservation of endangered species would help those beneficial insect species that share habitat with listed species, it would not in itself be sufficient to ensure the continuation of the services provided by beneficial insects.