Landscape triage for conserving insect diversity
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Insects are small, numerous and speciose. They respond to the landscape in many vastly different ways. Their world, largely unlike that of mammals, is an immensely complex three-dimensional one, where plant and land architectures feature strongly in their lives. Polymorphism is widespread in the insect world, and this too adds a further facet to their conservation. Additionally, insect populations are often highly dynamic, with great vagility and population variability. Conservation of this complexity can only be done at the level of the landscape, so as to incorporate all the interactions and behaviours. Yet the natural landscape is rapidly changing to one of a patchwork mosaic. At one extreme of triage, it is essential to maintain wilderness as a habitat source. At the other extreme, there are landscapes that are so degraded physically and genetically that they must be left for later attention. In between, as is the case with many agro-forestry and suburban landscapes, gradual restoration is unquestionably worthwhile. All efforts now must be directed to improving habitat connectivity and native heterogeneity as a practical solution to conserving the vast diversity of the insect world.