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.