Evolving life sciences and agricultural research approaches may have a decreasing need to access physical resources in future, such as plant seeds or viral material. Information and genetic data may be all that is required for commercial exploitation of biological resources. This POSTnote summarises the challenge this creates for international discussions on the governance of genetic resources and the possible options for addressing these.
Documents to download
UK insect decline and extinctions (764 KB, PDF)
Insects play a pivotal role in natural processes that support other living organisms, and human health and well–being. Roles include pollination, pest and weed regulation, decomposition, nutrient cycling, and provision of food for wildlife and humans. They can also be agricultural pests or transmit disease. Insects are key indicators for monitoring ecosystems and concerns about insect decline have arisen following studies showing large declines in insect abundance and biomass. However, the trends for global insect populations remain largely unknown, although studies in Europe have found insect abundance or biomass declined between 38% and 75%.
The UK has more data than many countries due to its long-term recording schemes, natural history collections, citizen science engagement and insect research community. Emerging labour-efficient methods can help data collection through remotely monitoring larger areas, but current data are limited by gaps in what is measured and how. The data shows the UK has experienced extinctions and declines in abundance, biomass and distribution of insects. Declines in abundance or distribution have been seen in bees and hoverflies, butterflies and moths, beetles, and freshwater insects, but some species are increasing in biomass. There are a variety of drivers behind insect decline, such as habitat loss, chemical use and climate change, and their impacts differ across habitat, species and time.
Key points in this POSTnote include:
- There have been documented declines in insect species and populations. Generalist species are less likely to decline than more specialised species. The impacts of this on ecological processes are poorly quantified.
- The UK has unparalleled data from long-term monitoring, but it is limited by gaps in what is measured and how. There are few long-term data sets with abundance data.
- Drivers of decline, such as habitat loss, are common across insect groups and can interact to cause combined pressure on populations. However, environmental changes can benefit some species while negatively affecting others.
- Interventions, such as habitat creation, may play a role in halting declines, but the scale and types need careful consideration.
Further information on these issues is available in POSTbrief 36 Understanding insect decline: data and drivers.
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:
Professor Simon Leather, Harper Adams University
Dr James Bell, Rothamsted Insect Survey*
Dr Chris Shortall, Rothamsted Insect Survey*
Dan Blumgart, Rothamsted Insect Survey*
Professor Simon Potts, University of Reading*
Dr Tom Breeze, University of Reading*
Dr Deepa Senapathi, University of Reading*
Dr Claire Carvell, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)*
Dr Ben Woodcock, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) *
Professor Helen Roy, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) *
Dr Jamie Alison, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) *
Dr Nick Isaac, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)*
Dr David Roy, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)
Dr Gary Powney, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) *
Dr Marc Botham, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) *
Professor Richard Pywell, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) *
Dr Charlotte Outhwaite, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), University College London*
Dr Lynn Dicks, University of Cambridge, University of East Anglia, EKLIPSE, Conservation Evidence, IPBES*
Professor Steve Ormerod, Cardiff University*
Dr Christopher Hassall, University of Leeds*
Professor Bill Kunin, University of Leeds*
Dr Richard Gill, Imperial Collage London*
Professor Jane Memmott, University of Bristol
Dr Kath Baldock, University of Bristol, Northumbria University
Professor Chris Thomas, University of York*
Professor Jane Hill, University of York
Professor Mark Brown, Royal Holloway University of London*
Professor Dave Goulson, University of Sussex*
Sir Charles Godfray, University of Oxford
Professor Jeff Ollerton, University of Northampton
Professor Alfried Vogler, Imperial College London
Seirian Sumner, University College London
Don Monteith, Environmental Change Network
Dr Deborah J Steele, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), UK*
James Philips, Natural England*
Jon Curson, Natural England*
Andy Brown, Natural England*
Jon Webb, Natural England*
Matt Shardlow, Buglife*
Chris Hartfield, NFU*
Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation*
Luke Tilley, Royal Entomological Society
Ben Sykes, Ecological Continuity Trust
Margaret Ginman, Bee Farmers association
Dr Julie Ewald, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
Dr John Holland, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
*Denotes people who also acted as external reviewers of the briefing
Documents to download
UK insect decline and extinctions (764 KB, PDF)
Plastic packaging waste has become a key consumer concern. In the UK, over 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging enter the consumer market each year. Much of this is used in the food sector because plastic packaging is cheap, light to transport, hygienic, and can be used to extend the product’s shelf-life. In the UK around 46% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, mostly through local authority collections. However several issues with the current systems of plastics recycling persist. This POSTbrief reviews proposals to Defra and HM Treasury to improve plastics recycling in the UK .
The effect of consumers stockpiling certain goods and the slow reaction of retailers to ration them exposed the limitations of cost-efficient and streamlined supply chains to be agile and adapt to unforeseen shocks. This suggests that changes may be needed to make the supply chain more resilient. Specific problems arose from the closure of parts of the catering sector and the lack of agility in redistributing supplies from this sector to retail outlets or the food donation/charity sector. This was due to challenges in packaging availability, logistics and labelling requirements; leading to an increase in food loss. Agricultural food producers and the wider supply chain may have incurred significant losses from the impacts of COVID-19. Food processing facilities have been responsible for a number of localised COVID-19 outbreaks. This may be influenced by a range of factors, including the proximity of workers for prolonged periods, the need to speak loudly to communicate over the noise of the machines or the shared welfare spaces external to the factory setting. The immediate effects of COVID-19 on the food supply system are the current policy concern, but the longer-term food system issues highlighted as a result of the pandemic will have to be addressed by considering how to build resilience to possible future shocks.