Reforestation and forest restoration in the monarch’s Mexican overwintering sites and surrounding areas are important for the well-being of the local residents and for the monarch butterfly. We support comprehensive, science-based reforestation and conservation projects that engage local communities.
The partnerships MBF has established with different organizations have helped us support reforestation projects within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR). Our collaboration with Alternare and CIGA (UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography), which started in 2011 has led to successful reforestation of many areas and strengthened our relationships with the local communities who participate in our projects.
Three indigenous communities and three ejidos (communal properties) that live in and around the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) participated in our 2019 summer reforestation. We planted 22,905 trees on 20 sites in 21.5 hectares. The map below shows the locations of the reforestations (labeled with numbers and shown in red outline, visible if map is enlarged).
Overwintering Season 2018-2019
During the past overwintering season, experts from the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) and the Natural Protected Areas Commission (CONANP), in collaboration with the WWF Mexico-Telmex-Telcel partnership, reported a 114% increase of the surface covered by monarch butterfly colonies. Although this increase to approximately 6 hectares (12 acres) was very good news, it will be several years before we know if the population has stabilized. Our continued work to increase the abundance of native milkweeds in the monarch breeding range and the continued protection of closed forests for monarchs in Mexico will help to ensure long-term sustainability of monarch numbers.
Scientific Research and Monitoring
Recognizing that sound science is key to effective conservation, we support scientific research, including habitat and species assessments, with direct relevance to conservation in the overwintering sites. Our research funding supports scientists studying ecology and the conservation of monarchs in Mexico.
Vegetation and Land Cover 2018 Map
MBF funded the update and publication of the “Monarch Cartographic Series: Vegetation and Land Cover 2018”. Developed by board member Isabel Ramírez, working with Jairo G. López-Sánchez and Sara Barrasa from UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography (CIGA), this update is part of the long-term monitoring of land cover in the MBBR and its surrounding areas. This process began in 2000 and is one of the research actions of the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (2008).
During the process of developing the map, Isabel and her collaborators observed that to date the MBBR and its influence area are undergoing a “forest transition”. In other words, there was a turnaround in land-use trends from a period of net forest area loss (i.e. deforestation) to a period of net forest area gain. In the last six years forest cover recovery areas in the Reserve have been greater than the losses, although forest loss is still occurring outside the Reserve.
Additionally, agriculture in the surrounding areas of the MBBR has undergone an intensification process, and crops are changing from corn to fruit plantations (mainly avocado, guava and berries for export). MBF is promoting monitoring activities to help the Reserve’s managers evaluate the effectiveness of their conservation efforts and to support farmers seeking production practices that are more sustainable.
The map is shown below and has been peer-reviewed and is going to be distributed among all the local stakeholders.
Evaluation of Ecological Restoration
MBF funded undergraduate environmental sciences student Salvador Huitrón from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, to evaluate ecological restoration activities in the monarch butterfly overwintering sites during 2012-2017. Salvador identified 766 records, taken during 40 years of monitoring the overwintering sites, by several scientists and institutions. He identified 10 priority microwatersheds and 24 agrarian properties in the overwintering sites and the subsequent analysis resulted in the the description of the main impacts of forest degradation in priority watersheds for overwintering monarchs. Among the main threats, in order of prevalence, were wind blowing trees down, environmental sanitation (removing branches and debris), fires, illegal logging, grazing, tourism, and landslides.
Salvador concluded his research giving several recommendations to improve forest management including conservation activities, restoration and protection that can revert forest degradation in the priority microwatersheds of the overwintering sites. Among his recommendations are keeping the historical record data base updated, use the data about environmental disturbances to improve restoration techniques and include the participation of the forest owners in future conservation projects. To read a summary and look at some of the maps that Salvador compiled click HERE.
Assisted Migration 2019
Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saénz-Romero, in collaboration with Dr. Arnulfo Blanco-García and his graduate students continued with their experiments on assisted migration. Among their experiments were 1) field/common garden reciprocal provenance tests at three sites with different altitudes; 2) Oyamel (Abies religiosa) provenance field tests at Los Ailes – this experiment, confirmed previous results, i.e. the protection of natural shrubs serving as nurse plants is needed for survival of oyamel reforestations when planted seedlings are young, and that an assisted migration up to 400 m of altitudinal shift upwards, has no negative impact; 3) proline (amino acid) production in oyamel seedlings under drought stress. Results indicate that seedlings under drought stress produced significantly more proline, but there were no significant differences among provenances. These results did not sustain the original hypothesis, that the seedlings originated at the lowest altitude (2960 m) would be more resistant to drought than the other provenances; 4) assisted migration provenance tests of Pinus pseudostrobus with 30% rain exclusion, concluding that reforestation at low altitudinal limits of the MBBR is feasible assuming that 30% of rain exclusion at higher altitudes is an indicator for future, more arid climate.
The research was published in Nature Journal in an article describing the feasibility of conducting ecological restorations using reforestations incorporating assisted migration to mitigate the projected impacts on climate change on the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The results were also published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution and the Los Angeles Times also featured an article on April 9, 2019 discussing assisted migration but also the human component of the conservation challenges in a climate changes context, portraying the enormous relevance of local actors in reforestation programs.
Planting of 10,000 Oyamels Using Assisted Migration Strategy
Led by ejido Cerro Prieto an initiative to plant ten thousand oyamel trees adopting the assisted migration strategy was carried out from July to October 2019. Additionally, an assessment of the reforestation from 2012-2019 in Sierra Chincua, one of the main monarch overwintering sites was performed. This project will not only plant trees, but the results will give feedback for the design of a best practices and forest restoration strategy for the recovery of Sierra Chincua’s core zone.
Education and Outreach
We support environmental education programs that lead to a greater understanding, appreciation, and support of the challenge of monarch conservation. Our programs focus on engaging communities in conservation by providing training as eco-tour guides and in reforestation activities. Eco-tourism workshops combine indoor presentations and hands-on activities with outdoor field work to raise awareness about the importance of conserving the monarch overwintering sites. Participants learn basic monarch biology, including information on the part of the monarch life cycle that occurs in the United States and Canada, as well as skills that will help them become tour-guides and engage in monitoring activities.
Education and Outreach 2019
Citizen Science with Correo Real
Correo Real’s program “My Municipality with the Monarch (Mayor´s Monarch Pledge) continued. With funding from MBF they set up ten pollinator gardens in local schools and held five training workshops for personnel from the municipalities participating in the Pledge. Ten metal plaques marked the dedication of each pollinator garden as a site to feed and shelter butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Additionally, Correo Real participated in three events to promote the initiative with different stakeholders and interested citizens and printed 1,000 copies of the fact sheets describing the Pledge. Other outreach activities included the publication of 22 newsletters in Spanish throughout the year, out of which seven were translated into English, and 42 Facebook postings that reached 128,306 people. Last but not least, Correo Real held a workshop from November 28-29, 2018, at Alternare’s Training Center. Key topics addressed were environmental education, citizen science, pollinator gardens, and forestry culture and outreach.
Ambiente Cielo Rojo has finished the video titled “Biodiversity: Beyond the Monarch”, which explores the value of other species in the Reserve that are also important to maintain the overwintering ecosystem of the monarchs. The film includes the biodiversity monitoring that MBF funded last year and contains images from the wildlife cameras collected by several NGOs, including members of the Monarch Network (Red Monarca). The official launch of the film will be in February. 2020. a part of Red Monarca’s outreach efforts.
6th Monarch Symposium in Toluca
MBF board members, Karen Oberhauser, Isabel Ramirez, and Alfonso Alonso, gave oral presentations at the 6th International Symposium on Research and Conservation of the Monarch Butterfly. This symposium was held in Toluca, Mexico, from March 7 to 9, 2019, and organized by the National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP), the governments of the states of Michoacán and Mexico, and by the Alianza Telcel WWF-Mexico. Thirty speakers presented recent findings on monarch research and conservation, with an audience of about 300 people. Participants included representatives of the federal, state, and municipal governments of the states of Michoacán and Mexico, members of the Ejidos (land owners), as well as researchers from several academic institutions and non-governmental organizations from Mexico and the U.S.
Razonatura continues making progress with the Red Monarca’s Documentation Center. Currently they are incorporating information from the Community Water Monitoring Network of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and the Phenological Network in the monarch region into the Red Monarca’s website. Including these two key networks on the website as part of the Monarch Network will strengthen the Network, and increase the visibility of all the organizations, allowing for further cooperation and outreach with all the stakeholders working in the monarch area.
We support the livelihood of local residents by encouraging artisan projects, and activities that increase tourism-related income. Our focus has been on supporting Alternare’s ongoing capacity-building workshops. During 2011-2016 period, MBF provided funding to Alternare to facilitate 946 workshops in different topics, training 11,806 people from the ejidos and indigenous communities in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
Alternare Workshops and Sustainable Development Projects
As they do every year, Alternare and the local communities started the year with meetings, workshops, and projects. Evaluation meetings were held to assess their 2018 activities and plan ahead for 2019. Encouraged by the results obtained during the past year, men and women heartily committed to continue working with Alternare. A total of 15 workshops on the production of organic vegetables, organic fertilizer, fruit, and forest trees were held, as well as on community savings and loans, construction of fuel-efficient stoves, and cisterns to capture rain-water. As a result, 20 fuel-efficient stoves and one cistern were built. Thirty school and four community tree nurseries in which 20,152 pines, oaks, alders, and ashes are growing continue being maintained. MBF applauds Alternare and the hard-working men and women who participate in all these activities!