Many of the most nutritionally and economically important edible insects are those that are harvested from existing agricultural systems. Current strategies of agricultural intensification focus predominantly on increasing crop yields, with no or little consideration of the repercussions this may have for the additional harvest and ecology of accompanying food insects. Yet such insects provide many valuable ecosystem services, and their sustainable management could be crucial to ensuring future food security. This review considers the multiple ecosystem services provided by edible insects in existing agricultural systems worldwide. Directly and indirectly, edible insects contribute to all four categories of ecosystem services as outlined by the Millennium Ecosystem Services definition: provisioning, regulating, maintaining, and cultural services. They are also responsible for ecosystem disservices, most notably significant crop damage. We argue that it is crucial for decision-makers to evaluate the costs and benefits of the presence of food insects in agricultural systems. We recommend that a key priority for further research is the quantification of the economic and environmental contribution of services and disservices from edible insects in agricultural systems.
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