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A butterfly rests on rapeseed, a relative of canola, in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo: Michael Probst / Associated Press

A 27-year study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One found there's been a massive drop in insects in protected areas in Germany. The research shows even areas designed to preserve biodiversity are impacted by human actions.

Why it matters: Previous studies have estimated a roughly 50% drop in insects globally, writes Ben Guarino at the Washington Post. But this is one of the first studies to measure a decrease directly. Insects are important pollinators, but they're more than that. They eat waste, decompose detritus, spread nutrients and act as food for many species. "The whole fabric of our planet is built on plants and insects and the relationship between the two," Scott Black, executive director of the nonprofit Xerces Institute, tells the Post.

What they did: Researchers placed insect-catching traps in nature preserves in Germany. They made sure to move the traps around so they wouldn't harm insect populations.

What they found: The total weight of insects scientists caught each year dropped dramatically from 1989 to 2016. "The amount of decline, about 75%, is way too much to be attributed to just one or a few species such as bees or butterflies," study author Hans de Kroon tells Anna Azvolinsky at The Scientist.

Why it's happening: The study authors believe that climate change is not a factor. Instead, they implicate pesticide use and changes in how the land is used.

Go deeper

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.