Over a quarter of European grasshopper, cricket and bush cricket species are being driven to extinction by unsustainable agricultural practices and the growing frequency of wildfires in Europe, a new IUCN report has found.
Risk of extinction for 25%
The European Red List of Grasshoppers, Crickets and Bush crickets, published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), assesses, for the first time, the conservation status of all of Europe’s 1,082 grasshopper, cricket and bush cricket species.
It shows that over a quarter of these species are at risk of extinction, making them the most threatened of the insect groups assessed so far in Europe.
More than 150 experts participated in the two-year assessment project, which was funded by the European Commission.
‘Europe’s rapidly changing landscape is affecting many species, including insects we are so familiar with, such as crickets and grasshoppers. To bring these species back from the brink of extinction, more needs to be done to protect and restore their habitats. This can be done through sustainable grassland management using traditional agricultural practices for example. If we do not act now, the sound of crickets in European grasslands could soon become a thing of the past.’
Deputy Director, IUCN Global Species Programme
Crickets, bush crickets and grasshoppers – a group known as Orthoptera – are an important food source for many of Europe’s birds and reptiles, and their decline could affect entire ecosystems. They are also indicators of ecosystem health and grassland biodiversity.
The intensification of agricultural land use, which leads to the loss, degradation and fragmentation of grassland habitats, has been identified as the main threat to the species.
They are particularly affected by overgrazing, the overgrowing of abandoned pastures, the conversion of grassland or shrubland to cropland, the use of fertilisers and heavy machinery, frequent mowing and the use of pesticides.
The Adriatic marbled bush cricket (Zeuneriana marmorata), for example, is now classed as Endangered due to the conversion of meadows into crop fields and the intensification of grassland management.