• 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 2016-2017
As part of the Monarch Network (Red Monarca), MBF started funding the development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) geared towards creating a tool to help plan, analyze and communicate all the activities undertaken by the NGOs that are part of the Monarch Network. Led by Colectividad Razonatura, A.C., the project evolved into the creation of a Documentation Center in the Monarch Butterfly Area that organizes information on different topics pertaining Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) in a data base. This digital platform organizes, classifies and makes available to the interested public and society in general, information related to the MBBR area. The portal is also available in English and users can search information by different criteria, such as title, author(s), year and type of publication, thematic area classified by activities in the MBBR, general topic, key words, among others.
Field Guide Workshops
On December14 of last year, MBF Consultant Ek del Val de Gortari, along with herpetologist, Jonatan Torres were in El Rosario, to carry out the second workshop for tourist guides. Ek and Jonatan invited 30 people from the community involved in the sanctuary and those responsible for the horses that take tourists. They both explained that the purpose of the field guides is to learn about the immense biodiversity in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and share it with visitors.
The tour guides looked for the species they knew and recognized them. They were interested in the amphibian and reptile guides since there are a lot of myths and beliefs around them and they were surprised to discover that most snakes in the Reserve are not poisonous and that the fake scorpion (Barisia imbricata) is also harmless. Jonatan talked with the personnel, answering all their questions, and pointing out the characteristic features of each group of species. Next on the MBF Agenda is to translate the guides into English for foreign visitors!
Biology and Conservation Workshops
During the 2016-2017 overwintering season, Eneida Montesinos, along with Eco Monarca and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) México held workshops on the biology and conservation of overwintering monarch and their habitat in México in five local communities. A total of 189 men and 105 women employed as tour guides participated in the workshops. Topics included monarch biology, migration and overwintering as well as conservation issues. Participants engaged in different games, activities and role-playing and made monarch handicrafts, migration maps and presentations. The tour guides received a booklet with information of the topics covered in the workshops to be able to use them as a reference during the tours.
Additionally, 485 students from six local elementary and high schools participated in the Third Monarch Butterfly Environmental Education Festival. The festival included conferences and workshops about the monarch butterfly and the environment in general and cultural activities organized by several local educational institutions.
• Forest Conservation / Reforestation
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.
Reforestation sites – 2017
Our Summer 2017 was completed successfully! Thanks to the excellent work relationship that Alternare has established with the local communities, 24 trees nurseries have been established in schools and communities to provide healthy seedlings for the reforestation. This year, 720 people from six communities participated in the reforestation planting 23,056 trees on 19 sites and covering an area of 25.46 hectares. Incentives for acquiring the trees were given in-kind and included cleaning supplies, sports equipment, construction materials, improvements, and implementation of the school/community nurseries and in some cases, labor was paid for work that was carried out in their facilities. Below some of the participants carrying out reforestation activities.
Overwintering Season 2016-2017 in Sierra Chincua
According to the CONANP-WWF (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas-World Wildlife Fund) report, the 2016-2017 overwintering colony in Sierra Chincua was divided in two fragments: a small 0.17 ha area located in federal property and another 0.42 ha in El Calabozo ejido. Both fragments were located just 1.6 km (5,250 ft.) from each other.
The colony in the federal property was the only one open to the public in Chincua. On February 18, on the way from C. Prieto, MBF Board member, Isabel Ramírez and her students visited this site and they observed that the forest was considerably thinned out. The exposed roots of the trees that fell due to the March 2016 storm were everywhere, as well as the remains of the fallen trees that were extracted. However, since the winter was particularly mild, there were flowers everywhere, which seems to have grabbed the attention of tourists as much as the butterflies.
Isabel and her students were able to get close to a fragment of a monarch colony at Llano del Coala. There, they observed a remarkable recovery in the colony size compared to previous years. The only sound was the wind blowing and the fluttering of butterfly wings as they flew around. The storm did not cause a lot of damage on the north face of this mountain. The trees where the colony was established were very young and the understory was sparse. A young forest between colonies was dominant, with very few old-growth trees and a lot of trees from recent natural regeneration. Experiencing this reminded everyone that there is still a lot to do so that the monarch butterfly remains a flagship species for conservation.
Images from the Sierra Chincua colony taken in March, 2017
2017 Evaluation in Chincua
On 30 March 2017, MBF Board member Pablo Jaramillo went to the illegally logged area in Arroyo Hondo in Sierra Chincua to evaluate the survival rate of trees that were planted in June 2016. In collaboration with Arnulfo Blanco from the Michoacana University, six undergraduate students and Luis Dávila (from the Reserve), 10 permanent monitoring plots (100 m2 each) were established and each planted seedling was marked to determine whether it was dead or alive. The final data will be available soon, but early field estimates of the survival rate of the reforested trees is about 75-80%. This is excellent considering that many people participated in the planting process (approximately 60 people per day) over three working days last summer. The permanent plots that were set up will be monitored periodically over the next five years to determine if the reforestation of this area was carried out successfully or if trees allowed to grow by natural regeneration will outperform the reforested seedlings.
Seedlings that will be monitored in the next 5 years
• 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 México.
Support for Butterflies and Their People
This year, MBF is funding a new project by Butterflies and Their People, A.C., a non-profit recently established by Dr. Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno. The project involves training of arborists in the Cerro Pelón Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary to provide detailed information on forest and monarch colony health that will be shared with researchers. Among the arborist’s duties are monitoring natural regeneration, identifying mushroom, bird, and wildflower species, and collecting garbage. The arborists will be trained by Dr. Guillermo Ibarra, a renowned botanist, and by Dr. Pablo Jaramillo.
Ecologic and Genetic Variation in Oyamel Research
Another project that will be supported by MBF is for doctoral student Claudia Guerrero Vizcaíno, who will describe, both ecologically and genetically, multiple populations of oyamels (Abies religiosa) in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR).
Claudia will analyze the ecological and genetic features in the recovery of Abies religiosa in forest gaps where wood was extracted under various management conditions inside the MBBR. Her methodology includes identifying sampling sites with clearings caused by extraction in the oyamel forests as well as natural regeneration and/or reforestation sites. She will also collect soil samples to determine nutrient availability and record the various species of plants in the understory, to learn what factors facilitate or inhibit the regeneration of oyamels. In addition, she will carry out genetic analyses by collecting oyamel needles to learn about their genetic diversity, flow, and structure.
The maintenance of genetic diversity is key to conservation programs since it promotes adaptation and the evolution of populations and species. MBF is very pleased to support Claudia’s work. Her project will be one of the first studies on genetic and population ecology of Abies religiosa in the MBBR, as well as one of the first to compare the recovery of populations under natural recovery programs and reforestations as a component of public policy. We are sure that the results of her research will provide new guidelines to improve conservation public policies and management in the MBBR.
During 2017, Dr. Sáenz (MBF advisor) and his team will continue their research with a project titled “Non-regular planting under nursing plants and drought stress resistance of Abies religiosa rescued seedlings and Pinus pseudostrobus rain exclusion in altitudinal assisted migration tests.” During 2016, Dr. Saénz (MBF advisor) and his team of researchers discovered that oyamel seedlings originated from seed collected at an altitudinal difference of 350m, resulted in genetic variations in growth potential and frost resistance. This highlights the importance of considering the altitudinal origin of the seed source used to produce seedlings in the nurseries for reforestation programs, and the importance of carefully considering the altitudinal difference between the site of seed collection and that of reforestation. They also discovered that after one year of planting on a reforestation site, survival under open fields is 77%, while under the shade of local shrubs it rises to 95%. Based on these results, in 2017, the researchers will conduct additional tests and experiments to assess the differences in survival and growth of trees relative to the seeds source and the planting site based on climate and altitudinal changes. To view an article about this research click here.
• Sustainable Development
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 and their team started 2017 facilitating thirty-nine workshops on diverse topics ranging from sustainable agricultural techniques such as organic farming, to recycling water and managing it sustainably. The workshops were held in ejidos and indigenous communities that own land in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. A total of 339 women and 140 men participated building five family fuel-efficient stoves, seven dry latrines, two community cisterns, two family cisterns, and two recycling bins for schools.
Cistern in Carpinteros Community
Since 68% of the Río San Juan Zitácuaro watershed spreads out over the Reserve, Alternare is working to improve water management and distribution among the communities. Currently, only 20% of the population has water in their household, the rest resort to placing hoses to extract water from the watershed. To solve this issue, Alternare has implemented five rural water distribution systems among four communities through the construction of cisterns, drafting community agreements and regulations for water use. As a campesino told us, “We used to place pipes to get water and used to argue over who was getting more water than the others but now with the agreements in place everything is more equal and fair.”