When we think of orthopterans (locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets), the biblical image of the ten plagues of Egypt and its clouds that “cover the whole face of the earth, eat plants and fruits, and plunge the world into darkness” (Exodus) quickly comes to mind.
This text echoes the ravages of grasshoppers in certain regions of the world, often already very vulnerable, such as the Sahel or East Africa.
But did you know that this appalling reputation, firmly anchored in the collective imagination, is due to a few species, the most emblematic of which is the Desert Locust? In reality, out of about 6,000 known grasshopper species in the world, only a few species are devastating, but they cause a lot of damage…
Given the media coverage of the devastation caused by these problematic species, it is not surprising that grasshoppers are known and imagined as pests.
Threatened orthopteran species
The protection of insects is fairly recent. The conservation of orthopterans is based on the observation that, far from being abundant, most species are in sharp decline. Indeed, it is one of the most threatened groups of insects on a European scale.
On a regional scale, a red list has been dedicated to them since 2018. It tells us that in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, there is a great diversity of species. The region has around 180 species of orthopterans, i.e. more than 80% of the species in France. Unfortunately, 12% of them are threatened with extinction!
Existing only in the Crau, if the Crau Plain Grasshopper disappeared, it would be one more extinction on a global scale. The Crau region therefore bears a great responsibility towards this species which benefits from an ambitious LIFE project.
Moreover, ecosystems that lose species and become impoverished become increasingly fragile in the face of climate change, disease, etc. Protecting the species around us is therefore protecting ourselves, as humans can be directly affected by their decline.
Orthopterans as indicateurs
Orthopterans are a key component of the ecosystems in which they live. They play an important role in food chains as a resource for many other species of birds, reptiles and other insect-eating vertebrates and invertebrates.
Easy to observe and sensitive to habitat changes, they are valuable indicators of open environments for researchers and nature managers. Their diversity reflects the state and variety of these habitats.
The Crau Plain Grasshopper, for example, can only live in the Crau steppe, and is an indicator of the state of this unique steppe.
Cathy Gibault, veterinarian dedicated to the Crau Plain Grasshopper
Published: Septembre 19 2022
Cathy Gibault is a veterinarian who has worked for more than 15 years in zoos on conservation programmes for threatened species. Since 2014, she has been contributing to the improvement of knowledge about the Crau Plain Grasshopper. Today ...