Current conservation policies in the UK and Ireland overlook endangered insects and are taxonomically biased towards Lepidoptera

Natalie E Duffus, Juliano Morimoto* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Insects provide key ecosystem services for our sustainable future, which rely upon effective conservation policies to protect insect biodiversity. To date, however, we still do not know how effective current conservation policies are for protecting insect biodiversity, opening up the possibility that policies are unfit-for-purpose. Given the considerable debate and public awareness on the potential global decline of insect species, it is important to understand whether or not current policies can protect insect biodiversity. Here, we used IUCN listing of species status and developed a quantitative framework to analyse the potential effectiveness and coverage of current conservation policies pertaining to insect biodiversity in the UK and Ireland. We contrasted this against coverage for a well-known group – mammals – as a benchmark, to find that while the vast majority of the UK mammalian species in the European IUCN red list are directly protected by current policies, insects remain largely unprotected. Moreover, for those insect species that are explicitly protected by current policies, there is a taxonomic bias whereby the majority (>50%) of insect species are Lepidopterans (moths and butterflies), while a minority are Coleopterans (beetles), and none are Hymenopterans (bees, ants, wasps). Similar trends were observed in the UK priority biodiversity lists. Based on our data, we conclude that current biodiversity policies in the UK and Ireland have significant gaps in their protection of insect biodiversity and, there is a taxonomic bias that may skew some conservation efforts toward butterflies and moths. We anticipate that our findings are likely to occur worldwide, highlighting the need for more directive policies to manage and protect insect biodiversity for the sustainability of ecosystem services.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109464
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date7 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding statement
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
We would like to acknowledge Dr Jeff Ollerton and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the original version of this manuscript.

Data Availability Statement

The data used in this study are available as electronic supplementary materials.


  • Environmental policy
  • Entomology
  • Taxonomic bias
  • Conservation priorities


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