Every fall millions of monarch butterflies begin their long spectacular migration to the mountains of Mexico or coastal California. Through tagging monarchs in the fall we are learning their migration destinations and, very broadly, the routes that they take to reach these destinations. However, we do not know details of the routes they take or perils they face en route. Conservation is a hallmark of the Monarch Butterfly Fund’s (MBF) mission, but advocacy for suitable habitat along their migration route is a challenge because we just don’t know enough. Through tagging programs, starting with a program led by Dr. Fred Urquhart from the University of Toronto, and continuing to day with Monarch Watch, we know that most monarchs from east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to Mexico, but we still lack information about their destinations on the eastern seaboard and Florida. In the west, tagging data through the Southwest Monarch Study reveal that some monarchs in Arizona and New Mexico migrate to Mexico but others fly to California. There is so much more to learn!
Dr. Karen Oberhauser, MBF Treasurer and Director of the UW-Madison Arboretum, explains why MBF is engaging in research focused on understanding more about monarchs’ migratory pathways. “Habitat conservation in the breeding, migratory, and wintering areas is the most important focus of what we do, and will always be the main focus of MBF’s efforts. However, learning several things about their migratory path can have key conservation outcomes. For example, knowing the time taken on the flight, the degree to which individual monarchs diverge from ‘straight line’ pathways, and the kinds of habitat that lead to those divergences will help us to understand the best way to focus migration habitat conservation and restoration. We don’t have the tools to learn these things now.”
The goals of the Flight Challenge are to answer remaining mysteries about monarch migration, and finding the answers to these questions engages everyone from budding scientists in elementary schools to graduate students and more established scientists.
Habitat conservation will always be key to MBF, but pushing the science forward so that we can ensure that our habitat conservation work is based on the best available science will always be important. The purpose of the “Flight Challenge” is to encourage development of new, exciting leading edge technology and the MBF is excited to support this effort! None MBF’s “general” funds will go to the Flight Challenge. This is completely separate effort, so you can be assured that your donations to MBF will continue to be used as for monarch habitat conservation.
To learn more about how the Flight Challenge will accomplish its goals, see https://www.generosity.com/animal-pet-fundraising/the-monarch-butterfly-flight-challenge
As part of their training, arborists from Butterflies and Their People project conducting surveys on Cerro Pelón, (see our Scientific and Research and Monitoring section) have spotted and photographed several species of mushrooms, birds, and wildflowers. Below are some of the images. In the near future, Dr. Guillermo Ibarra, a renowned botanist, and Dr. Pablo Jaramillo will carry out workshops to help the arborists identify and label them.
The latest issue of American Entomologist recently published a paper on Butterfly Mortality and Salvage Logging from the March 2016 Storm that occurred in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Dr. Lincoln Brower, Dr. Ernest Williams, Dr. Pablo Jaramillo and Dr, Isabel Ramirez, among others, participated in this valuable research that concluded that salvage logging “is almost always profoundly disturbing and detrimental to the environment.” To read a detailed analysis and view photos of the storm click here.
This summer the Crescencio Morales, Donaciano Ojeda and Nicolas Romero indigenous communities joined us to plant 23,400 trees in 20 hectares! Our supporters were delighted too and posted their feedback on the GlobalGiving report we sent recently. Some of their comments were:
“Outstanding work at creating a community effort to reforest lands, teach skills and help local communities be the guardians of their own forests. Excellent planting techniques that result in a high survival rate for the seedlings. Well done!”
“I am truly dedicated to helping the survival of the Monarchs and tell everyone I know about my passion.”
When the rains arrive, summer is the time for reforestation in the monarch preserve. We just heard from Alternare, our reforestation partners, that 20,566 trees have been planted (pine, oak, alder, oyamel and ash) on an average of 18.5 hectares. 605 people participating in this massive planting effort. Trees were planted in 16 locations in six communities (Crescencio Morales, Curungueo, Donaciano Ojeda, El Capulín, Francisco Serrato and Nicolás Romero). Your generous donations made this possible and the monarchs will thank you for years to come.
Currently, Atlernare is working on planting maps of the polygons with the coordinates. When completed they will be able to tell exactly us how many hectares were reforested.
July 29th to August 5th are the dates to join the Monarch Monitoring Blitz! Eastern and Western monarch populations have declined at the overwintering sites but it is difficult to determine the breeding population across North America. This “shout out” for Citizen Scientists in the United States, Canada and Mexico data reports may help fill the gaps in understanding. “With enough reports, your information will provide a snapshot that helps scientists understand the range and population size of late summer breeding monarchs across North America.”
Interested? See Blitz for more information.
MBF Board members Dr. Karen Oberhauser and Dr. Chip Taylor recently co-authored an important paper describing the importance of restoring monarch habitat in the midwestern U.S.A.
” In an effort to restore monarchs to a population goal established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and adopted by Mexico, Canada, and the US, we developed scenarios for amending the Midwestern US landscape with milkweed. Scenarios for milkweed restoration were developed for protected area grasslands, Conservation Reserve Program land, powerline, rail and roadside rights of way, urban/suburban lands, and land in agricultural production. Agricultural land was further divided into productive and marginal cropland.”
You can read more about this exciting opportunity in this link: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7637
Journey North reports, “The migration has reached eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces, almost the northeastern limit of the breeding range. This week’s sightings from New Brunswick are 3,000 miles from Mexico’s overwintering sites.Our northernmost monarch is at latitude 51°N in Saskatchewan, which is 2,000 miles due north of the winter sanctuaries.”
We are excited to announce Dr. Karen Oberhauser, Monarch Butterfly Fund Secretary, has been named director of the UW-Madison Arboretum. “I believe that the connections my research, outreach and teaching promote between monarchs, humans and the natural world encourage meaningful conservation action,” she said.
We congratulate Karen and look forward to her continued influence on the MBF Board as she begins her new position in October. More information here.
The Integrated Monitoring Strategy is a program to monitor key monarch and habitat characteristics using spatially balanced sites across the monarch’s U.S. range. Your results will inform Eastern monarch population habitat targets, help scientists understand the threats monarchs face during the breeding season, and help to create strategies for implementing habitat enhancement. Combined with habitat management records over time, these data could also be used to assess the effectiveness of local conservation projects for monarchs.
The Integrated Monitoring Strategy consists of four activities:
- monitor adult monarchs and identify preferred adult nectar plants
- estimate milkweed species diversity and density, per plant density of monarch eggs and caterpillars, and relative abundance of blooming nectar plants
- estimate monarch survival to adulthood by raising collected monarchs
- estimate abundance and biomass of fire ants (where geographically appropriate)
Instructions for monitoring in different land types (protected grasslands, unprotected grasslands, CRP lands, cultivated land, right of way habitats, urban/suburban spaces) are provided.
Need more information? See http://monarchjointventure.org/our-work/partner-projects/monarch-conservation-science-partnership-integrated-monitoring-strategy