Accounting for year effects and sampling error in temporal analyses of invertebrate population and biodiversity change: a comment on Seibold et al 2019

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Abstract

An accumulating number of studies are reporting severe insect declines. These studies aim to quantify temporal changes in invertebrate populations and community composition and attribute them to anthropogenic drivers.

Seibold et al. 2019 (Nature, 574, 671–674) analysed arthropod biomass, abundance and species richness from forest and grassland plots in a region of Germany and reported declines of up to 78% between 2008 and 2018. However, their analysis did not account for the confounding effects of temporal pseudoreplication.

We show that simply by including a year random effect in the statistical models and thereby accounting for the common conditions experienced by proximal sites in the same years, four of the five reported declines become non-significant out of six tests overall.

To place recent estimates of insect trends in a broader context, we analysed invertebrate biomass, abundance and richness from 640 time series from 1167 sites around the world. We found that the average trends across the terrestrial and freshwater realms were not significantly distinguishable from no net change. Shorter time series that are likely most affected by sampling error variance – such as those in Seibold et al. 2019 (Nature, 574, 671–674) – yielded the most extreme decline and increase estimates.

We suggest that the media uptake of negative trends from short time series may be serving to exaggerate the ‘insect Armageddon’ and could undermine public confidence in research. We advocate that future research uses appropriate model structures to build a more robust understanding of biodiversity change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-154
JournalInsect Conservation and Diversity
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2021

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