Local drivers of decline matter

Recent studies have reported alarming declines in insect populations, but questions persist about the breadth and pattern of such declines. van Klink et al. compiled data from 166 long-term surveys across 1676 globally distributed sites and confirmed declines in terrestrial insects, albeit at lower rates than some other studies have reported (see the Perspective by Dornelas and Daskalova). However, they found that freshwater insect populations have increased overall, perhaps owing to clean water efforts and climate change. Patterns of variation suggest that local-scale drivers are likely responsible for many changes in population trends, providing hope for directed conservation actions.
Science, this issue p. 417; see also p. 368


Recent case studies showing substantial declines of insect abundances have raised alarm, but how widespread such patterns are remains unclear. We compiled data from 166 long-term surveys of insect assemblages across 1676 sites to investigate trends in insect abundances over time. Overall, we found considerable variation in trends even among adjacent sites but an average decline of terrestrial insect abundance by ~9% per decade and an increase of freshwater insect abundance by ~11% per decade. Both patterns were largely driven by strong trends in North America and some European regions. We found some associations with potential drivers (e.g., land-use drivers), and trends in protected areas tended to be weaker. Our findings provide a more nuanced view of spatiotemporal patterns of insect abundance trends than previously suggested.

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Supplementary Material


Materials and Methods
Figs. S1 to S7
Tables S1 to S3
External Data S1 and S2
References (37206)


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Published In

Volume 368 | Issue 6489
24 April 2020

Submission history

Received: 10 May 2019
Accepted: 3 March 2020
Published in print: 24 April 2020


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We thank R. Vermeulen (WBBS foundation), S. Swengel, M. Driessen, J. Owen, F. Gilbert, T. Wepprich, A. M. Kilpatrick, Butterfly Monitoring Israel, S. Schuch, and the Smithsonian Institution for making data freely available to us. Data from the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring Programme were provided by the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark. The ECN data were supplied by the Natural Environment Research Council (UK). We also thank N. Naderi, S. Blowes, P. Keil, A. T. Clark, S. D. Jurburg, and M. Winter for help with data extraction, statistical advice, figure formatting, and commenting on earlier versions of the manuscript. Funding: R.v.K., J.M.C., D.E.B., and A.G. were supported by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig and its synthesis center (sDiv), funded by the German Research Foundation (FZT 118). K.B.G. was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (19-05-00245). Some of the data analyzed here were collected using NSF grants to the LTER Network (NSF06‐20443, 8811906, 9411976, 0080529, 0217774, DEB-0423704, DEB-1633026, DEB-1637685, DEB-1256696, DEB-0832652, DEB-0936498, DEB-1832016, DEB-0620652 DEB-1234162, OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140, and OCE-1832178). Author contributions: R.v.K. and J.M.C. conceived the study. R.v.K. and K.B.G. performed the literature search. A.G., D.E.B., and A.B.S. collected data. R.v.K. and D.E.B. analyzed the data. R.v.K. and J.M.C. wrote the first version of the manuscript, and all authors substantially edited the text. Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests. Data and materials availability: The data frames used for the analyses are available as data S1 and S2 in the supplementary materials, excluding datasets with access licenses that precluded distribution of a derived product. Links to these datasets, and all other publicly available datasets, are provided in table S1. All code for this analysis is available on GitHub ( and is archived on Zenodo (35). The underlying database, including extended metadata, is available on KNB (36).



German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
Leipzig University, 04109 Leipzig, Germany.
WBBS Foundation, 9409 TV, Loon, Netherlands.
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
Institute of Biodiversity, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, 07743 Jena, Germany.
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), 04318 Leipzig, Germany.
A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow 119071, Russia.
M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow 119991, Russia.
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
Department of Computer Science, Martin Luther University-Halle Wittenberg, 06099 Halle (Saale), Germany.

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Corresponding author. Email: [email protected]

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