The invertebrates are not doing well. This is the conclusion of a major study by the Zoological Society in London. Researchers looked at a large proportion of all invertebrates and drew firm conclusions: one in five species is threatened with extinction. This can also have major consequences for people.
"Invertebrates" is actually a term that biologists do not like to use. "It is more a collective name for a huge group of animals," explains Menno Reemers. He is a biologist at Naturalis Museum Naturalis, and "insect expert". "The term" invertebrate "is not a conclusive term, it includes a particularly large group in the animal kingdom."
27,000 different animals live in the Netherlands. Of these, only 400 have been vertebrate. "So check how many invertebrates are there." In general, invertebrates are small animals, mostly insects (20,000 of the 27,000 mentioned earlier, in the Netherlands). But it can also involve larger animals. Think of the tapeworm (which can be three meters long) or the squid (up to eighteen meters).
The ZSL report does not lie. One in five invertebrates threatens to disappear in the near future, the researchers write. The researchers also say that they also do not know everything about the invertebrates. In fact, less than one percent of all invertebrate species have only been mapped so far.
If such a large group of invertebrates were to disappear, it could have major consequences for humans. A conclusion from the report is literally: "If the 20 percent endangered species were actually to disappear, humans would soon follow." Reemers does not want to go that far, but he acknowledges that it can become a problem. “Invertebrates are usually at the bottom of our food chain. Thousands of species survive by eating other animals. When that food runs out, you can guess what happens to the animals that depend on it again. ”Another problem that can occur is how much the flora will suffer. "For example, bees will no longer be able to pollinate flowers, which is of course not good for nature."
Certain types of animals are also at risk in the Netherlands. We have, however, documented our invertebrates well above average, says Reemers. "We have some 'red lists'. These are lists of species that are threatened. So there indeed bees on it - no less than 56 percent of them are threatened with extinction. Ten percent of them have already disappeared. The butterfly is also not doing well, there are also a number of them on red lists. "
"They are bold statements, but it will not happen very quickly", Reemers thinks. “It will take a while before things get really bad with the invertebrates. Now it is still about 20 percent of the animals, in 50 years about another 20 percent ... "He does acknowledge the poor state of the invertebrates. "It has indeed become a lot more penitent in recent years."
The plight of invertebrates is mainly due to climate change. It differs per species what it is then about. With bacteria, or plankton, the warming of the water can be a danger. In freshwater it is the acidification that causes damage. And of course there is the many forest clearing, which is disastrous for the unique and extensive ecosystem. “Nature is disappearing. And if you have lost an animal species, then you will lose it forever. "