Insects are in many respects the backbone for Life on our Planet, being the major engineers of ecosystems and dominating organisms of the Animal Kingdom. “To a first approximation, every animal is an insect” (J. Kukalová-Peck). The biomass of insects ranges from over 2000 kg/ha in the tropics to around 1000 kg/ha in the temperate zone, while the biomass of human beings averages at only 7 kg/ha. The Theme for the ICE 2020 is “Entomology for our Planet”, in order to highlight the crucial role of insects in maintaining and shaping our lives, and overall, life on Earth. Specific emphasis includes topics such as:
Entomology for a hungry planet
Insects and mites are main competitors for humans for food, feed and fiber, requiring understanding of their properties for successful management. Progress in entomology is essential to coping with the ever-evolving race with insect pests. Insects and mites are also part of any solution to successful pest management, as more than half of all known insects are natural enemies of herbivorous insects. As the growing human population on our planet is seeking for alternative sources of animal protein to satisfy the world hunger, increasing attention is paid to the possibility to use insects as a major source of proteins for food as well as for feed.
Entomology for a diverse planet
Global biodiversity is the ecological base for sustainability of the world’s ecosystems and the ecosystem services they produce for humans, but also the resource base for and driver of bioeconomy and businesses arising from innovative uses of biomaterials, many of which originate from arthropods. Insects pay a key role in global biodiversity, as over ¾ of all known animal species are insects, and they outnumber known vascular plant species by 1-2 orders of magnitude. Furthermore, it is believed that the vast majority of all insect species have not been described yet (are unknown), and that most species will go extinct before they have been discovered.
Entomology for a healthy planet
There is a dramatic increase in vector-borne disease epidemics over the past decades, and nearly all of the most important vector-borne human diseases have exhibited dramatic changes in incidence and geographic range. These include dengue fever, malaria, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, and most recently, zika. Overall, vector-borne infectious diseases cause a significant fraction of the global infectious disease burden, and nearly half of the world’s population is infected with at least one type of vector-borne pathogen. Vector-borne plant and animal diseases not only pose serious health hazards to humans and reduce the quality of life, but also reduce agricultural productivity and disrupt ecosystems throughout the world. At the same time, the world is facing an extreme shortage of entomologists and vector control experts, as many countries do not have any entomology programs at the undergraduate university level, and some countries have only a handful of expert entomologists.
Entomology for a changing planet
Global ecological challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and invasive species all have a strong entomological component, and are usually interlinked. Thus climate change profoundly affects species distributions and abundances, exacerbates biodiversity losses, and facilitates invasions of harmful species into new geographical areas. Such drivers further disrupt critical ecosystem services such as biological control, pollination, and decomposition, in all of which insects play the determining role. Even a country like Finland records well over 100 new insect species per year, among them a recent, established invader Anoplophora glabripennis (the Asian long-horned beetle), found in 2015. In turn, we appear to be losing specialist arctic species at an accelerating pace, including some bumble bee species such as Bombus arcticus.
Entomology with latitude
Helsinki will be the northernmost ever location for the ICE Congress (at 60°10′N, equivalent to Seward, Alaska, or Nanortalink, Greenland). Thanks to the warm Gulf-stream, however, Finland enjoys (usually) warm and nice summers, and the world’s northernmost agriculture (self-sufficiency in all key agricultural products). Also insect life is adapted to the white nights (i.e., practically no night in the summer), which the delegates to the ICE 2020 congress are welcome to experience and to explore. One specific topic area for the proposed ICE2020 in Helsinki will be arctic entomology, or ‘entomology at the northern edge’.