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.

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Deadly Hurricane Zeta slams U.S. Gulf Coast

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a 55-year-old man was "electrocuted by a downed power line" in Louisiana as the storm caused widespread power outages Wednesday night, per AP.

What's happening: Zeta made landfall south of New Orleans as a Category 2 hurricane earlier Wednesday before weakening to Category 1. But it was still "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi with life-threatening storm surge, high winds, and heavy rain" late Wednesday, per the National Hurricane Center.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  2. Health: Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022 — Trump's testing czar: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests Some coronavirus survivors have "autoantibodies."
  3. Business: Consumer confidence sinking Testing is a windfall.
  4. World: Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  5. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
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Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, testifies during a September Senate hearing on COVID-19 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Graeme Jennings/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday he doesn't expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be ready until January 2021 or later.

What he's saying: Fauci said during the interview that the U.S. was in a "bad position" after failing to keep case numbers down post-summer. "We should have been way down in baseline and daily cases and we’re not," he said.