Dr. Hans de Kroon, a lead researcher in the groundbreaking 2017 study that documented dramatic insect declines in Europe, will speak about the study’s global implications at a talk at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC).

Sponsored by the nonprofit conservation organization Raritan Headwaters Association and RVCC, the free talk will be held in the college’s Conference Center, Grand Conference Rooms A & B. Advance reservations are not required.

Dr. de Kroon will discuss the European study, which found that three-quarters of the flying insects at nature preserves in Germany have been lost since 1989. He will also speak about other studies that are finding similar declines, possible causes, current conservation efforts, including actions that government organizations, farmers, local communities and individuals are taking in Europe to reverse insect declines.

Dr. de Kroon is a leading international ecologist and a professor of plant ecology at Radboud University in the Netherlands.  “We’re very honored to present Dr. de Kroon’s talk,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of Raritan Headwaters. “The 2017 study was alarming because it found huge insect declines in protected places where most people might expect nature to be thriving. What’s true in Europe is likely true in the United States, and I’m looking forward to learning more about Dr. de Kroon’s research and how the trend can be turned around.”

According to Radboud University, researchers had long suspected that flying insects were disappearing. In recent years, it became clear that populations of certain insects, such as butterflies and bees, were declining.

Over the course of 27 years, insect researchers collected data at 63 different places within nature reserves in Germany. Flying insects were trapped and their total biomass was weighed and compared.

Measuring simply by weight, the researchers discovered that flying insect abundance had declined by an average of 76 percent. But in the middle of summer, when insect numbers usually peak, the decline was even more severe at 82 percent.

“As entire ecosystems are dependent on insects for food and as pollinators, it places the decline of insect-eating birds and mammals in a new context,” said Dr. de Kroon in a statement issued at the time of the study’s release. “We can barely imagine what would happen if this downward trend continues unabated.”

This study noted that many of the German nature preserves were surrounded by agricultural areas, where pesticides and loss of wildflowers could impact insects. The study drew the conclusion that the insect decline trend could potentially be applied to all areas where human disturbance is high – including suburban New Jersey.

Insects play a critical role in the function of ecosystems, providing food resources for wildlife and valuable services such as pollination, soil formation and biological control of pests. They ensure the sustainability of ecosystem services that are critical to human survival.

About Raritan Headwaters

Raritan Headwaters has been working since 1959 to protect, preserve and improve water quality and other natural resources of the Raritan River headwaters region through science, education, advocacy, land preservation and stewardship.

RHA’s 470-square-mile region provides clean drinking water to 300,000 residents of 38 municipalities in Somerset, Hunterdon and Morris counties and beyond to some 1.5 million homes and businesses in New Jersey’s densely populated urban areas.

To learn more about Raritan Headwaters, please visit www.raritanheadwaters.org or call 908-234-1852.