Weather explains the decline and rise of insect biomass over 34 years

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Joerg Mueller - , University of Würzburg (Author)
  • Torsten Hothorn - , University of Zurich (Author)
  • Ye Yuan - , Technical University of Munich (Author)
  • Sebastian Seibold - , Chair of Forest Zoology, TUD Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Oliver Mitesser - , University of Würzburg (Author)
  • Julia Rothacher - , University of Würzburg (Author)
  • Julia Freund - , University of Würzburg (Author)
  • Clara Wild - , University of Würzburg (Author)
  • Marina Wolz - , University of Würzburg (Author)
  • Annette Menzel - , Technical University of Munich (Author)


Insects have a pivotal role in ecosystem function, thus the decline of more than 75% in insect biomass in protected areas over recent decades in Central Europe1 and elsewhere2,3 has alarmed the public, pushed decision-makers4 and stimulated research on insect population trends. However, the drivers of this decline are still not well understood. Here, we reanalysed 27 years of insect biomass data from Hallmann et al.1, using sample-specific information on weather conditions during sampling and weather anomalies during the insect life cycle. This model explained variation in temporal decline in insect biomass, including an observed increase in biomass in recent years, solely on the basis of these weather variables. Our finding that terrestrial insect biomass is largely driven by complex weather conditions challenges previous assumptions that climate change is more critical in the tropics5,6 or that negative consequences in the temperate zone might only occur in the future7. Despite the recent observed increase in biomass, new combinations of unfavourable multi-annual weather conditions might be expected to further threaten insect populations under continuing climate change. Our findings also highlight the need for more climate change research on physiological mechanisms affected by annual weather conditions and anomalies.Insect biomass data covering 27 years were reanalysed using sample-specific information on weather conditions during sampling and weather anomalies during the insect life cycle, finding that biomass is driven by complex weather conditions.


Original languageGerman
Number of pages15
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Sept 2023

External IDs

ORCID /0000-0002-7968-4489/work/149439495



  • Phenology, Abundance, Responses, Temperature, Terrestrial, Birds