Study into catastrophic population decline for flying insects is UK’s most discussed scientific paper of 2017

Study into catastrophic population decline for flying insects is UK’s most discussed scientific paper of 2017

A research project involving the University of Sussex detailing the catastrophic loss of insect populations on nature reserves has been named the most discussed journal article in the UK in 2017.

New data has revealed that the project, a collaboration between University of Sussex biologist Professor Dave Goulson and colleagues in The Netherlands and Germany, was also the sixth most publicised article in the world this year.

The study found the loss of bees, butterflies and other flying insects from within protected nature reserves has been even more severe than previously feared leading Prof Goulson to warn of an impending “ecological Armageddon”.

Entomologists collected data over the past 27 years in 63 different places within nature reserves across Germany and found flying insect populations had decreased by more than 75 per cent since 1989 and above 80 per cent in the height of summer.

Professor Goulson, report co-author and Professor of Biology (Evolution, Behaviour and Environment) at the University of Sussex, said: “It’s fantastic that this important paper has received so much interest in just a couple of months.

"Catastrophic loss of insect life on this scale has such profound implications for the whole ecosystem. It is vital that there is widespread awareness of the scale of the damage our current methods of living and working is having on other plants and animals.

"I only hope now that all the discussion surrounding the paper does not stop at just talk but results in decisive government-level action to try and mitigate the most harmful impact of the ecological disaster we have created.”

It also appeared on the front page of The Guardian where it was seen by environment secretary Michael Gove who said he would look closely to see what action could be taken in response to the “deeply concerning” findings.

In total, the research inspired 206 news stories, almost 4,000 tweets, 123 Facebook posts and 34 blog posts.

Professor Sarah Guthrie, head of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex, said: “At Sussex, we are always striving to create research that has real impact and reaches as broad an audience as possible so we are very pleased with the response to this important piece of work.

"Clearly the research that Dave Goulson has contributed towards with colleagues in Europe has global significance and provides a stark warning about the future of our planet that needs to be heeded with immediate effect.”

The University of Sussex recently signed up to the tool, Altmetric Explorer for Institutions, to be able to monitor and track immediately the online activity surrounding the institute’s research with particular focus on who is saying what about the university’s research, and to expand understanding of where and why our research outputs are attracting attention.

Altmetrics, which is sourced from the web as an alternative to more traditional citation impact metrics of citation counts and H-index, are useful to show a record of attention, a measure of dissemination, and an indicator of influence and impact.

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By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2017