How many insect species exist and how many are disappearing

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Brazil

Publishing organisation: Nexo Jornal

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-07-22

Language: Portuguese

Authors: Main authors:
Caroline Souza, infographic designer
Gabriel Maia, data science assistant
Larissa Redivo, web development intern
Gabriel Zanlorenssi


Caroline Souza is a visual journalist with a bachelor degree in Geography, at University of São Paulo, and Columbia’s Lede Progam Alumni. She was part of Nexo Jornal team from 2019 to 2022.

Gabriel Maia is an Oceanography student at University of São Paulo who worked in Nexo from 2018 to 2022.

Nicholas Pretto is a data journalist and data science assistant with a bachelor degree in Architecture, at University of São Paulo. He is part of the Nexo since 2021.

Gabriel Zanlorenssi is Data Editor at Nexo Jornal and master in Political Science.

Project description:

In this data-driven piece, the decline of insect species is explored with data visualization and illustrations. Insects are the most prolific form of animal life in the world, numbering more than 1 million known species. Many others are yet to be discovered, the total number of may be over than 5 million.

Insects play a key role in the equilibrium of our planet. Their shrinking populations are a sign of alarm that everyone should be aware of, and that was the objective of this publication.

Impact reached:

The article was well received by our audience, and we think that it accomplish its goal that was to raise awareness of risks insects (as us, by consequence) face with habitat loss and global warming.

People often misunderstand insects, labelling them as disgusting or associating them with diseases. Very few of them, in fact, poses threat to us, but their importance for human life is crucial, considering their role in the equilibrium of ecosystems and agricultural activities (mainly through pollination).

Techniques/technologies used:

Data was ceded to Nexo by the Brazilian office of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, although the publication was not a partnership.

R and the ‘tidyverse’ packages were used for data analysis and initial charts. Adobe Illustrator was used for overall design and layout.

Context about the project:

About 31% of existing insect species are threatened of extinction. Being the largest class of animals on the planet, their decline is an important cause for concern.

One curious fact of this publication is that our former web development intern had a previous degree in Biology, and she wrote the script of this publication.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Data from reports are regularly hard to work with in Data Journalism, because we sometimes do not have access to microdata used on it. It is a good example of how the intersection of a more traditional data visualization approach to illustration can produce appealing stories.

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