"Most insects tirelessly perform functions that improve our environment and lives in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand," Losey says. "Don't let the insects' small stature fool you - these minute marvels provide valuable services."
The study found that native insects are food for wildlife that supports a $50 billion recreation industry, provide more than $4.5 billion in pest control, pollinate $3 billion in crops and clean up grazing lands, which saves ranchers some $380 million a year.
And these are "very conservative" estimates that probably represent only a fraction of the true value, reports Losey, associate professor of entomology at Cornell.
This analysis of the economic value of these insect services is the first analysis of its type, said Losey, who co-authored the study with Mace Vaughan, Cornell M.S. '99, conservation director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Ore., which works to protect native insect habitats through education and research.
Insects are an integral part of a complex web of interactions that helps put food on our tables and remove our wastes. Humans - and probably most life on earth - would perish without insects, Vaughan said.
Losey and Vaughan's study focused on the economic value of four particular services -wildlife nutrition, pest control, pollination and dung burial - selected because robust data were available for an analysis.
"A lot of value is added to the economy by insects, but most people just don't realize it," said Losey. "When considering the allocation of conservation resources, or the
Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
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