• Education and Outreach 2011-2018
Citizen Science with Correo Real
MBF and other organizations are supporting an education and citizen science program in Northern Mexico along the migratory route and overwintering sites of the monarch butterfly. Under PROFAUNA, A.C’s watch and coordinated by Correo Real this project includes strengthening an ongoing program titled “My Municipality with the Monarch (Mayor´s Monarch Pledge). Started in 2017, this initiative involves adding municipalities where monarchs rest, feed and fly during the fall migration, to participate in creating pollinator gardens and other activities. The project includes carrying out pollinator garden workshops, increasing outreach efforts through websites and social media, among others. Read all about this initiative in Correo Real’s latest Spring 2018 newsletter (in English).
Ambiente Cielo Rojo, an organization created by filmmakers and forestry, social, environmental, and technology experts, produces multimedia projects that foster awareness of the environment, culture, and art. As members of the Red Monarca (Monarch Network), Cielo Rojo received a grant from MBF to work on an audiovisual communication project for the Network for 2018-2019. The first stage of the project is to provide a video introduction to the monarch region focused on the challenges it currently faces. The initiative led by José Antonio de la Cruz Hernández, will help promote Red Monarca among people and organizations in the region. During the international symposium on the Monarchs in Morelia, Red Monarca used one of Cielo Rojo’s videos in their presentation! You can see the Red Monarca video on Cielo Rojo’s Facebook page. In October 28, 2018 Cielo Rojo’s movie “Taco Mazahua” was selected for the “Planet in Focus” movie festival in Toronto, Canada and received the Mark Haslam award given to documentaries that give a voice to individuals, communities and conflicts that are underrepresented in the media.
Monarch Symposium in Morelia
The 5th International Monarch Butterfly Research and Conservation Symposium, was held in the city of Morelia, Michoacán on March 7-8, 2018. MBF board member, Alfonso Alonso, gave introductory remarks encouraging everyone to make an extra effort to connect with other participants and create partnerships to continue seeking and finding strategies for the long-term conservation of the monarch butterfly migration, an endangered phenomenon.
Alfonso gave encouraged everyone to make an extra effort to connect with other participants and create partnerships to continue seeking and finding strategies for the long-term conservation of the monarch butterfly migration, an endangered phenomenon. He also commented on the increased impact tourism is having on the two sites that are currently open to the public and suggested the possibility of opening other sites. However, this idea requires very careful planning and consideration.
Alfonso at the podium in the Symposium
MBF was also represented at the meeting by other board members and collaborators, including Isabel Ramírez, Diego Pérez, Cuauhtémoc Saenz, Guadalupe del Río (Alternare), Claudia Guerrero (UNAM), and Arnulfo Blanco (University of Michoacán). They presented and discussed topics that included reforestation strategies within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR), management of fire, genetics of fir forests, natural regeneration, and management of riparian systems. Additionally, Red Monarca (Monarch Network) which includes Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that work in the MBBR and surrounding areas, discussed the importance of joining efforts to achieve lasting conservation in the overwintering areas.
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.
Funding for Carpinteros Indigenous Community
The indigenous community of Carpinteros has one the best conserved forests in the MBBR’s core zone, with forest cover greater than 50% on 92% of its surface, thus making it a strategic site that is ideal for overwintering monarchs. Since 2000, this community has been receiving payments for conservation services for their efforts from the Monarch Fund as well as the National Forest Commission (CONAFOR), and they have proven worthy of it! In 2013, they were awarded a prize by CONAFOR and won second place in the “Films for the Forest” international short film festival for their movie “Ejidatarios del Bosque”, in which they describe community forest management for the conservation of biodiversity. MBF added funds to complete the conservation services payments for this year due to adjustments made to the property maps in the MBBR. The payments were given on October 7 in a community assembly. MBF proudly supports Carpinteros in their efforts to maintain a conserved forest!
Field Guide Workshops
On December 14, 2017, 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!
At the workshop viewing the field guides
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.
Eneida with workshop participants
Field Guide Workshops
Dr. Ek del Val de Gortari, MBF adviser, and her colleagues completed field guides for the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The guides will provide information to help visitors identify the most common species of butterflies, plants, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles in the region (click on each category to see the guides). Felipe Martinez, Director of the MBBR, Ek and plant experts, Dr. Guillermo Ibarra, and M.S. Guadalupe Cornejo, as well as reptile expert, Biol. Jonatan Torres, visited the El Rosario community to lead a workshop on how to best use the field guides. El Rosario has one of the largest butterfly colonies so naturally, the team started there. A total of 20 community members, including 4 tourist guides attended the workshop which involved a walk through the forest where participants identified plants and butterflies using the field guides. Ek and her colleagues distributed 2,500 guides (500 of each category: butterflies, plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians). The workshops will continue until the end of the month and English versions of the guides are planned for 2017. MBF is proud to be part of this outreach effort that will help share knowledge and information with local communities and visitors to the Reserve. Ek will work on the English versions in 2017.
Mural in Donaciano Ojeda Indigenous Community
Last year, the Mazahua Indigenous Community of Donaciano Ojeda approached MBF and asked for support for a community-building project that involved painting a mural in the communal house they all share. The goal was to paint a mural that shows the relationship of the community to the forest and the monarch butterfly. The community owns almost 700 hectares in the core zone and 1,300 in the buffer zone. Before starting the mural, the community gathered and discussed their accomplishments and what they wanted to include in the mural. Among the most relevant accomplishments include no illegal logging for 18 to 20 years, maintaining 80% of their forest cover in 600 hectares of the core zone and the ability to conserve water wisely making it available to the entire community. The community discussed their history and identified important places and things to include in the mural such as the primary mountain ranges and watersheds, the main church, wildlife (coyotes, deer, rabbits, and squirrels), their traditional attire among others. Monarchs are not only beautiful, but they serve to unite communities in common projects that bring joy and happiness to all!
Monarch Fund Brochures
MBF supported the Monarch Fund in their efforts to inform landowners about the benefits provided by the Fund and coming from the National Forest Commission. Communities signed agreements with both organizations to conserve their forests and will get payments for the environmental services their forests provide. The agreements only apply to the forests within the core zone and payments are given to communities that maintain a conserved core zone. The health of the of the forest cover is determined by the yearly monitoring performed by WWF.
Dr. Ek Del Val Gortari, MBF adviser and her colleagues, are developing field guides for the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve to provide information that will help visitors identify the most common species of butterflies, plants, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. They are developing a brochure for each group with illustrations or photographs, including basic information about the habitats of the different species. The end product will be laminated field guides of the different groups of species which will be useful to promote knowledge of local biodiversity beyond the monarch butterfly and consequently promote forest conservation. The National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) is also providing information and will make reprints available when they are required. Once the guides are completed, Ek and her colleagues will hold workshops with forest rangers and tourist guides in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
As part of the “Red Monarca” (Monarch Network), MBF is pleased to support Fundación Razonatura in their proposal to “Develop an Online Documentation Center of the Monarch Butterfly Region.” This project will develop a digital platform to organize and classify information related to the MBBR and make it accessible to interested parties and society as a whole. Their goal is to have a documentation center hosted in the Monarch Network’s’ website with searches and bibliography about projects, research and general information about the MBBR. They will compile and classify the information received from different sources that make up the Monarch Network such as academia and non-profits, and institutional public information (CONANP, CONAGUA, CONABIO, etc.), media (newspapers, magazines, books, etc.)
Eneida Montesinos, who leads MBF’s eco-tourism workshops, held a 2-day workshop at San Mateo Almomoloa, in the State of Mexico in September 27 and 28. Forty people from the Piedra Herrada Community completed the workshop about monarch biology, migration, conservation, and best practices as tour guides including common English phrases to welcome tourists. Guest speakers included Eduardo Rendón from WWF Mexico who discussed the decline in last year’s monarch population as well as Rocío Treviño from Correo Real, a citizen science project that monitors the monarch migration in Northern Mexico.
Environmental Education and Monitoring Workshops
This year MBF awarded a grant to Geovida, a local non-profit that carries out workshops in the “Bosque Escuela” (Forest School) Educational Center located in the Emiliano Zapata Ejido in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve’s buffer zone. During October Geovida held several environmental education workshops and monitoring activities for 60 sixth grade students in the Amado Nervo Elementary School in Ocampo, Michoacán. Collaborating with environmental promoters from local communities and experts, workshops included activities in the school’s classroom as well as in the field. Among the topics included in the workshops were the UN’s Earth Charter Initiative, caring for the forest and the watersheds and the monarch butterfly’s migratory cycle. Children participated in diverse activities such as listening to lectures, drawing, watching videos, singing Lucas Miller’s (the singing zoologist) “Going Down to Mexico” (Spanish Version), planting medicinal plants, measuring tree diameters, among others. Click here to see photos of all the activities.
Educational Activities in Northern Mexico
With support from MBF and the Government of the State of Tamaulipas and the Urban Development and Environment Ministry of Tamaulipas, Pronatura Noreste, a local non-profit, carried out environmental education activities in four elementary schools in Jaumave (part of the monarch’s migratory route) during February-June, 2014. One thousand drawing booklets, a puzzle about the monarch butterfly’s life cycle and 500 posters describing different phases of the monarch’s life-cycle, their migration, the threats they face and recommendations on how to protect them were printed with funds provided by MBF. Personnel from the Ministry gave 44 Power Point presentations about the monarch’s biology, their migratory route and their flight through Jaumave to 1,216 students and 49 teachers carried out different educational activities. Everyone participated with enthusiasm as we can see in the images below. Pronatura will repeat this process in 2015 with seven smaller schools with 274 students.
In June 2013 Eneida Montesinos, who leads MBF’s eco-tourism workshops conducted an evaluation of her 2012 workshops described below. She asked participants for their feedback and we are happy to report that the results were very positive. Participants rated her workshops highly and stated that they learned a lot of information that they will be able to share with tourists and other members of their communities. Participants’ favorite activities were the games, learning about monarchs, and interacting with their classmates. We see the same choices in workshops in the U.S.
During October and November 2012 MBF collaborator, Eneida Montesinos held 6 three-day workshops to train eco-tourism guides in 6 communities within the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. As she was concluding her workshops she was approached by the Director of the Reserve who asked her if she was available to give a workshop to schoolchildren as part of the XXI Monarch Butterfly Festival. In collaboration with WWF and the Reserve Eneida gave one workshop which turned out to be a total success. Excited kids and teachers requested more workshops and Eneida ended up giving 6 additional workshops with a total participation of 950 kids! Even moms got excited and fifteen of them attended the workshop at Senguio. The smallest workshop had 80 kids and the largest one 250, averaging around 150 per workshop. This was an exciting twist of events which allowed Eneida to expand her workshops to schoolchildren! Lots of the material she uses to train guides in monarch biology was easily accessible to children.
MBF is excited to support these workshops which are not only engaging kids, school teachers and moms but are strengthening our relationships with WWF, the Reserve, and the local communities.
In addition to the eco-tourism and children’s workshops, MBF funded and participated in a workshop with members of four indigenous communities held on June 24, 2012, at Alternare’s Training Center. This workshop was geared to prepare communities for the 2012 reforestation season and was a result of a collaborative effort between MBF, Alternare, CIGA (UNAM’s Center for Environmental Geography Research Center), CIECO (UNAM´s Center for Ecosystems Research), and volunteers from HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) bank. MBF’s forestry advisor, Dr. Diego Pérez-Salicrup, conducted the workshop with help from our team member, Dr. Pablo Jaramillo.
Community members were divided into three working groups that were chaired by the HSBC volunteers. Each group was able to identify specific issues they wanted to address guided by topics suggested by Dr. Pérez-Salicrup. Workshop participants have carried out reforestation projects in the past and their willingness to share their knowledge and experience generated lively and informed discussions.
Discussions focused on three main topics:
- Why reforest?
- Challenges of reforestation planning, and
- Measuring seedlings.
The three groups had different motivations to reforest. One group explained that they use pine from the buffer zones to build houses and firewood, selling the remainder as railroad ties. They reforest former agricultural areas to harvest trees. Another group was concerned about increasing and securing their water resources for themselves and future generations. Traditionally, reforestation projects have been carried out in agricultural areas, but thanks to the workshop, community members realized the potential of these areas for forest recovery which could offer long-term financial benefits aimed at improvement of their short- and mid-term livelihoods.
The workshop ended with training on the appropriate techniques to measure seedlings. Participants measured seedlings from four different species, reported their results, and entered their findings into a computer program that allowed them to visualize the data graphically. They learned the importance of accurate measurements, and are now able to determine annual growth and survival rates of trees that they plant.
The workshop increased awareness among participants and improved their reforestation skills, but most importantly it corroborated MBF’s belief in the strength of sharing knowledge and collaborating with local people, academics, volunteers and organizations. Community members and academics speak the same jargon now and everyone understands what is meant by environmental services, watershed management, forest management and sustainability. These collaborations also break barriers between “city-folk” and “country-folk”, as we witnessed with the HSBC volunteers from Mexico City. The campesinos and the bank volunteers are now aware that keeping the forest ecosystem healthy is beneficial for everyone, not just people living in the countryside.
During November 2011 MBF conducted six separate three-day workshops in the states of México and Michoacán. Each workshop was tailored to the needs of a specific community, or Ejido, and for the most part, held in the community to make it easier for people to attend. A total of 139 men and women participated in the November workshops.
Education and Outreach, How We Started…
In a project partially funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we established a collaboration with Mexican scientists and educators to develop an environmental education program appropriate for use in schools attended by the families in and near the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The program includes materials written in Spanish, included a book of monarch-related curriculum lessons, a book on monarch biology, and laminated cards illustrating the monarch’s annual migratory cycle.
We conducted five educational workshops for tourist guides from communities near the Sierra Chincua, Cerro Pelón, Herrada, Rosario and Popocatepetl monarch colonies in 2006-2009. This cooperative effort included WWF-Mexico, Biocenosis, UNAM, Profauna, Ecosport Mexico and the University of Minnesota.
• Reforestation and Other Activities During 2011-2018
Reforestation sites – 2018
Six indigenous communities: Carpinteros, El Capulín, Crescencio Morales, Nicolás Romero, Francisco Serrato and Manzanillos reforested 28 hectares on 13 sites with 30,000 trees produced in collective nurseries. Below is the map of the reforested sites.
A total of 2,537 women, men, and children enthusiastically participated in the tree production process on 26 community and seven school nurseries. The planting was done with 594 people who also helped in the site selection. Communities asked to plant more pine trees since they can be managed more sustainably so 95.2% of the trees used in the reforestation were pines. Other species were included as well such as oak (0.2%), oyamels (1.5%), and alders (3.1%).
Overwintering Season 2017-2018
According to the report by CONANP-WWF (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas-World Wildlife Fund), the area occupied by overwintering monarchs in 2017-2018 decreased by 14.77% compared to last year. There were nine butterfly colonies (three in Michoacán, six in the State of Mexico), occupying 2.48 hectares.
From January to March, MBF board member, Isabel Ramírez, was also out in the field with her graduate students collecting data about the monarchs. A a researcher from UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography (CIGA), Isabel and her team collected data that will be used for four projects (see scientific research and monitoring below for more details).
Images from overwintering sites in Sierra Chincua and Cerro Pelón
Reforestation sites – 2017
Planting in Illegally Logged Forest
Ten hectares in Sierra Chincua were illegally logged in 2015. Concerned with the situation, MBF’s Isabel Ramirez, Pablo Jaramillo and their colleagues prepared a zone map of the deforested area, noting four zones that should be rehabilitated based on the severity of the damage created by illegal logging. Subsequently they were part of the multi-disciplinary group of researchers, government authorities and stakeholders that met with the Reserve’s Senior staff to determine the best remedial response. A team was assembled to plant oyamel and pine seedlings randomly to resemble the forest. For a detailed account of all the planting activities please click here. Finally, the 10-hectare area that was illegally logged was reforested and fenced to protect it from cattle grazing. MBF is grateful to Felipe Martinez for his support during the restoration planning activities and their implementation.
Reforestation, How We Started…
In the past, MBF worked in collaboration with the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project México (LCHPP-Mexico), a project conceived by Jose Luis Alvarez of Santa Clara del Cobre, México, and initiated in 1997 in partnership with Robert L. Small of California, the founder of the Michoacán Reforestation Fund (MRF). This project gives seedlings to local people (at no cost to them) to reforest lands, mainly in the buffer zone surrounding the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR), that have been denuded for agriculture and domestic timber consumption. Once the seedlings grow into trees they provide sustainable wood-lots for the local people, which may reduce timber cutting in the MBBR. The project also provides a source of income for the land-owners, improves the watershed, protects fragile mountain soils, and provides wildlife habitat. Periodically, trees are also propagated for and planted within the core zone of the MBBR.
From a kick-off donation from Robert L. Small, 7,000 seedlings were planted in 1997. News of the successful plantings spread quickly, and over the next 12 years over 600 farmers and 20 communities had participated, donating both land and labor to plant and raise trees at over 400 sites. During 1997-2009, 1,000 hectares were reforested with 3 million new trees.
Since Jose Luis Alvarez and MRF initiated the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project Mexico in 1997, other organizations have become involved. We planted 200,000 additional seedlings in 2009, with support from and in collaboration with one of those organizations, LCHPP-Inc., a non-profit formed in 2007 dedicated to forest restoration.
• Scientific Research and Monitoring 2011-2018
Collection of Data During 2017-2018 Overwintering Season
From January to March, MBF board member, Isabel Ramírez, and her team collected data that will be used for four projects: one for the North American CEC (Commission for Environmental Cooperation), to analyze the sampled monarch’s natal origin (stable isotopes analyses will be done by Dr. Tyler Flockhart from the Appalachian Lab in Maryland); the second, in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy McNeil from the University of Western Ontario and Dr. Jocelyn Millar from the University of California, Riverside will attempt to find chemical signals that overwintering butterflies may leave behind on the branches and soil as clues for future butterfly colonies; the third, includes the collection of forest regeneration data in areas that were identified as being damaged by the illegal logging in 2015 to follow-up the forest restoration plan drafted by the reserve; and finally, Isabel and her students continued to collect climate data and soil cover changes for the long term environmental research project that she has been working on for the past fifteen years.
Monitoring of Forest Health
The Butterflies and Their People, A.C. (B&TP), led by Dr. Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno, are training residents from Ejido El Capulín, Ejido Nicolás Romero and Nicolás Romero indigenous community to participate in multiple monitoring projects. In September 2017, B&TP hired one full-time forest arborist from each of these communities who regularly visit the overwintering colonies and provide detailed information about wildlife, species, and forest health over the winter period. In collaboration with MBF board member, Dr. Pablo Jaramillo, arborists have been trained to monitor a natural regeneration project as well as documenting birds, flowers, and mushrooms in Cerro Pelón. Thanks to this grant, the program began last year and has now grown, thanks to an online GoFundMe campaign allowing B&TP to hire additional arborists. We are happy to have contributed to this budding project that promises to continue helping local communities and the forest!
Arborists from the Butterflies and Their People
While the monarch butterfly is our main concern, many other organisms also inhabit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR). This year, MBF funded a project to organize, review, process, and analyze acoustic, ultrasonic and wildlife camera files collected during 2016 in the MBBR by several NGOs (members of the Monarch Network-Red Monarca) as part of the existing data base in the National System to Monitor Biodiversity (SNMB).
Led by Belinda Ibarra López, independent consultant, in collaboration with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN), this project will improve the information on species dynamics and their populations over time.
FMCN received 39,520 received files which were organized, classified, and integrated into 62 fauna databases. Forty five percent of the data was analyzed and a total of 86 species were identified, out of which 31% are not registered in the MBBR´s Management Plan. Specifically, 60 species of birds were identified in the acoustic files, 15 of bats in the ultrasonic recordings and 11 of mammals in wildlife cameras. Below are some photographs from the wildlife cameras. The bat pictured below is under special protection and is endemic to Mexico.
Mexican Dog-faced Bat
The results not only helped to learn about species’ presence, abundance and activity patterns but will allow researchers to update species distribution maps, conduct censuses of the domestic fauna, detect and map habitat fragmentation among other things. All this data will contribute to better management practices in the protected area such as restricting human activities in certain areas during relevant periods for the health of wildlife populations and identify priority areas to promote the connectivity of forest landscapes among others.
MBF is very excited with the contribution this research will make to improve the MBBR’s Management Plan. Additionally, government institutions, the Reserve and local communities are all collaborating and now, thanks to this research, have the necessary tools to make informed decisions to implement the best management strategies for the area that are compatible with the ecological requirements. This will promote the ecological integrity of the MBBR and protect wildlife, the forest, and our beloved monarchs!
Evaluation of Ecological Restoration
This summer MBF funded undergraduate environmental sciences student Salvador Huitrón, from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, to evaluate the ecological restoration activities in the monarch butterfly overwintering sites during 2012-2107.
Since overwintering sites of the monarch butterfly were discovered in Mexico, four decades ago, actions geared towards recovery of the forests that have been degraded need to be documented and assessed in a systematic fashion. Salvador will evaluate the approaches and strategies related to the restoration of the monarch butterfly’s overwintering sites carried out by the ejidos and indigenous communities during 2012-2107 and highlight their successes and lessons learned. This will allow stakeholders to analyze the current restoration activities and foresee future trends, as well as guide and strengthen the ecological restoration efforts in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR).
To do this Salvador will identify priority micro-watersheds of the monarch butterfly’s overwintering sites based on the historical records of the colonies, identify the main impacts of deterioration and/or recovery in the forests, and the ecological restoration activities carried out to revert the damage, evaluating these activities. This research will give important input for the development of a Best Practices for Ecological Restoration Plan for the MBBR and aims to identify all the local strategies and existing initiatives to provide approaches that are in tune with the current situation of the forests, restoration priorities and climate change trends acknowledged to date.
Evaluation of Ecological Restoration
Funded by UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography (CIGA) and MBF, the “Monarch Cartographic Series: Vegetation and Land Covers 2006”, published in 2007, will be updated for 2018. This work is a continuation of long-term monitoring of land cover in the MBBR and its surrounding areas, one of the research actions established in the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (2008). The maps will be updated, and outreach posters and brochures will be developed and distributed as a tool to use in the field.
Assisted Migration 2018
Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saénz-Romero, in collaboration with Dr. Arnulfo Blanco-García and students Esmeralda Navarro-Miranda, Erika Gómez-Pineda, among others, carried out several experiments related to assisted migration of oyamels in his lab with encouraging results! After one year in the field, an evaluation revealed 96% tree survival rate. Seedlings were originally rescued from natural regeneration sites and grown for two years in a nursery. Afterwards they were planted under the shade of nurse plants on a deforested site. The figure below shows the results.
This amazing survival is due to several reasons including the fact that the seeds originated from the core zone in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, were rescued from natural regeneration in mossy sites which were carefully transplanted into nursery containers, were grown at a communal nursery at high altitude (3000 m) and planting on the field was done under the shade of nurse plants.
This made Cuauhtémoc and his team realize that it is necessary to produce local shrubs in communal forest nurseries and plant them on perturbed sites that don’t have any shrubs, two years before planting the oyamel seedlings.
The series of photos below show the assisted migration field tests for pine (Pinus pseudostrobus, reforestation site at 3010 m of altitude), with treatments of: (a, b) 30 % of rain exclusion, (c) shade without rain exclusion, and (d) control (no rain exclusion or shade). The project’s aim is to see the effect of rain reduction, projected by some climatic change scenarios.
MBF is very excited with this results that give us a clear strategy to follow when planning reforestations!
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.
Support for the Butterflies and Their People
In 2017, MBF began to fund a new project developed by the Butterflies and Their People, A.C. , a new organization, established by Dr. Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno. Their project involves training arborists in the Cerro Pelón Monarch Butterfly sanctuary to they can provide detailed information about forest health to researchers. Arborists wil monitor natural regeneration areas, identify flora and fauna, birds, mushrooms and other species. Dr. Guillermo Ibarra, renowned botanist and Dr. Pablo Jaramillo will train the arborists.
Overwintering Colonies 2016-2017
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.
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.
Assisted Migration 2017
Research on altitudinal genetic differentiation among natural populations and assisted migration of oyamel seedlings is ongoing in Dr. Saénz-Romero’s (MBF advisor) lab. In December 2017, Marisol Ortiz-Bibian, one of Dr. Saénz Romero’s students and lead author published the results of this study in a scientific journal.
Cuahutémoc, Marisol and team with oyamel seedlings in a common garden test
The research consisted in collecting seeds from fifteen oyamel (A. religiosa) populations along 50-meter intervals at elevations between 2850-3550 meters. Seedlings were evaluated in a common garden test over a period of 30 months. Significant differences were found among populations in total elongation, height, date of growth cessation, foliage, stem, and total dry weight, as well as frost damage. These differences were strongly associated with the cold temperatures. When collecting seeds close to mountain peaks, the altitudinal shift would exceed the highest elevations within the MBBR. This led the authors to conclude that A. religiosa stands need to be established outside the MBBR, on higher mountains and volcanoes, such as Nevado de Toluca, Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl and Pico de Orizaba, as potential future overwintering sites. Food for thought as the future approaches and climate change is upon us and the monarchs!
Assisted Migration 2016
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.
Nursery tests of seedlings that were collected along an altitudinal gradient (2950 to 3450 m) at the MBBR. In this new experiment different colored spoons were used to indicate provenance.
Evaluation of Community-based Resource Management
Doctoral student Miramanni Mishkin continued her research evaluating the success of community-based resource management, this time interviewing people from the San Juan Zitácuaro and Nicolas Romero communities. These communities were chosen because they have done a good job conserving their forests maintaining more than 80% of the dense forest cover over the last decade. Miramanni observed that the struggle to protect the forest is still a significant challenge since Nicolas Romero still faces illegal “ant logging” and San Juan Zitácuaro suffers damage to the fences they use to keep intruders out. However, the success of both communities in protecting their forests is due to the support they get from external institutions, their small size, and well-defined boundaries. In the case of San Juan Zitácuaro they have appropriate leadership and constant monitoring which adds to their success. It is important to identify these variables to be able to make recommendations to other communities so that they too become successful forest managers.
Assisted Migration 2015
Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saénz, Dr. Arnulfo Blanco and their students continued their project to demonstrate the feasibility of conducting assisted migration of oyamel natural populations to compensate for climatic change in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
To test the altitudinal upward shift assisted migration, the team initiated a field experiment in July 2015. They planted 2-year old seedlings at an altitude of 3440 m to anticipate the climatic change expected for the year 2030. Additionally, this field experiment includes two treatments: seedlings planted with and without coverage of local bushes to test the feasibility of using nurse plants to protect young Abies religiosa seedlings from extreme temperatures. The research is ongoing and will provide valuable information to decide when it is viable to allow the forest to naturally regenerate and when to reforest.
Assisted Migration 2014
This year MBF funded a research project by Dr. Cuauhtémoc Saénz Romero and his students to discover whether there are significant genetic differences among oyamel trees in different altitudes to determine what the best seed and seedling distribution for reforestation programs.
Branches and cones of oyamel populations along different altitudinal zones in an area close to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve were collected and analyzed considering their form and structure. Results indicate that low altitude populations have shorter needles and longer cones than those at high altitudes. Consequently, the research team suggests reforesting in three provisional altitudinal zones using seedlings originated from each zone. If climate change is considered, sites should be reforested in the zone immediately above the zone where the seeds were collected to assist the migration of seeds. The results of his research were published in the Revista Chapingo, the University of Chapingo’s scientific journal and is available here in both English and Spanish. This research will be very useful to MBF and will help us improve our reforestation strategy.
Evaluation of Community-based Resource Management
This year MBF gave a grant to doctoral student Miramanni Mishkin to evaluate the success of community based resource management in the indigenous community of Carpinteros with regards to forest conservation in the Monarch Reserve. Carpinteros has a history of sound forest management and Miramanni wanted to discover what contributes to their efficiency.
Through interviews with the community and using a method called Bayesian Network Analysis she identified several characteristics that are influential for efficient forest management in Carpinteros. Among the most relevant features she found were small community size, well defined boundaries, appropriate leadership, shared norms facilitating social pressure and rule enforcement, fair resources allocation (thus discouraging clandestine use), locally devised and easily enforced access and management rules. The community also relies on low-cost exclusionary technology (fences), which aids in the physical protection of their forest boundaries and helps enforce the general rules of conservation established by the Reserve.
We are very pleased with the results of this research as it will allow us to identify the ideal attributes of communities that are successfully conserving their forest, so we can support and encourage other communities to do the same.
The biosolids experiment set up in 2012 to determine how applying organic fertilizer (Bokashi) affects survival rates of reforested seedlings continues expanding. This year, Dr. Pablo Jaramillo will set aside 10 hectares in one community as an unfertilized control plot and 10 hectares in two communities where he will apply the Bokashi. In his field observations, Dr. Jaramillo has noticed that natural regeneration in specific areas results in less damage to the landscape and improved recovery of the forest. This year his research proposal includes signing agreements with two communities to set up a protection scheme in selected areas that will be left alone to promote natural regeneration of the forest. This will provide an initial baseline for future natural regeneration experiments.
Biosolids Experiments 2012-2013
During the summer 2012 season we set up two experiments to determine the optimal soil conditions for seedlings to thrive. Biosolids (organic byproducts) from dry latrines were obtained from Alternare´s Training Centre and transported to the field site.
One experiment includes biosolids, local soil and locally-produced seedlings, while the other experiment includes biosolids, bokashi (organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment), local soil and two sources of seedlings (locally and commercially produced). We have collected baseline data on seedling size and also soil samples for further analysis. We expect to collect seedling size data during the month of November after seedlings have endured transplant shock and the rainy season has ended.
The experiments were setup with communities that are ready and agreed to convert their agricultural plots into forest.
Biosolids Experiments 2011
In 2011 we established a research plot to determine the factors that contribute towards reforestation success. In this plot we will evaluate survival rates of seedlings under different soil conditions and compare seedlings from community-managed nurseries versus commercial ones. The plot is being monitored to determine transplant shock and the correlation between the organic amendment and tree survival rates.
We have already found evidence that trees produced in community-managed nurseries are adapted to local environmental conditions and show less transplant shock than their commercially produced counterparts. We will continue collecting data along with survival rates in other reforested sites to compare and establish correlations and be able to determine the importance of soil management and site selection in the reforestation process. Results from this experiment will help us improve our understanding of reforestation dynamics and improve the survival rate of future reforestation projects.
Community members were involved in soil sampling activities and conducted the reforestation activities witnessing what will happen to plants they produced themselves and that will be planted in their land.
Scientific Research, How We Started…
Our efforts in monarch conservation in México started by providing financial support and scientific expertise as part of the advisory group convened by WWF-Mexico to design a new protected area for the butterflies. Advising the Mexican government, the group determined the habitat required for the long-term protection of migratory phenomenon and proposed new reserve boundaries congruent with the needs with the conservation of the overwintering colonies. From 1998 through 2001, we provided $26,000 to WWF-Mexico to support their research on optimal Reserve design.
Sustainable Development 2011-2108
Alternare Celebrates 20 Years of Promoting Conservation
Alternare recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with two exciting events ! On January 27, 2018 in the training and demo center in Michoacán, held ‘community encounter’ with the indigenous communities and ejidos who live in and close to the monarch overwintering sites. During this event, attendees learned about the different programs that Alternare carries out in the MBBR. The event was an outstanding success with more than 400 people attending from the various communities .
Alterare’s star team: Gabriel, Elia, Anita, and Lupita
Alternare Workshops and Sustainable Development Projects 2018
Thanks to support from MBF during 2018, Alternare trained 105 people from the MBBR. Nineteen community cisterns were constructed for 93 families and another one was built for a school where 53 students will have access to rain water. Additionally, 2,537 people cultivated and nurtured 33,606 trees in 33 community and school nurseries.
To promote food security and improve living conditions, 545 people were trained to use agrological and ecological techniques in 67 workshops. These techniques include fuel-efficient stoves, organic vegetable production, dry latrines, and medicinal plants production.
A pilot project is currently underway to produce organic blackberries and blueberries! In partnership with other non-profit social enterprises, Alternare has set up greenhouses at their Training Center with the goal of eventually selling the produce locally and internationally. This will provide campesinos with the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and receive an income!
Alternare Workshops 2017
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.
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.”
Alternare Workshops 2016
Training and community participation are at Alternare’s core and from June to October, a total of 17 workshops resulted in 74 fuel-efficient stoves, 2 community nurseries, 28 cisterns, and 4 dry latrines. This was an amazing accomplishment that empowered 184 women and 202 men from the indigenous communities of Crescencio Morales, Francisco Serrato, Carpinteros, Curungueo, Nicolas Romero and Manzanillo. Reforestation and tree -planting techniques workshops were included and enabled communities to participate in our reforestation efforts. It is encouraging to witness the increasing number of participants. Just like the trees our collective efforts are also growing!
Alternare Workshops 2015
Alternare wrapped up 2015 and started 2016 with loads of workshops and activities! Working with communities in the municipalities of Aporo, Angangueo, Irimbo, Ocampo, Jungapeo and Zitácuaro, they held 37 workshops with the participation of 261 women and 342 men. Workshop topics included forest and fruit tree planting and maintenance, organic fertilizer and vegetable production, soil conservation, computer software and entrepreneurship. These workshops resulted in the construction of six cisterns (four in the communities, two in schools), nine dry latrines (five in schools, four for families) as well as the establishment of two school tree nurseries. Cisterns enable communities to capture rain water for agricultural and personal use providing drinking water once it is boiled. In the words of Doña Leticia Carmona, from the San Francisco Serrato community, “Water used to be scarce and now we store it in the cistern and use it to irrigate the vegetables in our organic garden! It is wonderful, and we are very grateful!”
Alternare Workshops 2014
Alternare continues offering workshops to restore and conserve the forests and improve the standard of living of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve’s (MBBR) inhabitants. To reduce pressure from the forest and the natural resources of the area, Alternare promotes creating goods using alternative ecological techniques or what is known as ‘ecotecnias’ in Spanish. They focus is on reducing the use of water and wood resources; hence their training workshops emphasize these topics.
Alternare Workshops 2013
With financial support from MBF, HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) and other sources, Alternare held 50 workshops in 34 different localities in Michoacán and one in the State of the México during the first semester of 2013. A total of 833 women and 480 men were taught to produce organic fertilizer, organic vegetables, forest and fruit trees, and adobe. They also built dry latrines, cisterns, and fuel-efficient stoves. Other workshop topics included solid waste management, sustainable agriculture, water and soil conservation, and participatory community diagnostics, evaluation and planning. Their results were impressive; 15 cisterns, 61 fuel-efficient stoves, 14 dry latrines were completed along with 76 family vegetable gardens and one school tree nursery where 22,696 fruit and forest trees were retained for future reforestation.
Alternare Workshops 2012
Thanks to the generous donations we received from all our donors through GlobalGiving and the prize we received from Healthy Planet, MBF was able to support Altenare’s activities for 2012 with a grant of $12,500.
Among the activities carried out by Alternare were 28 workshops held in April and May to teach communities how to build adobe, fuel-efficient stoves, and cisterns, as well as techniques to produce organic fertilizer and forest trees. Participants enthusiastically embraced all the techniques learned and built a cistern for one community and another one for a school. The most exciting part was that after building 31 fuel-efficient stoves with funding provided by Alternare, more stoves were needed, and several communities raised funds on their own from the local and federal government to build 60 additional ones! More efficient stoves will decrease the need to use as many trees from the monarch wintering area, and provide more healthy cooking environments for local communities.
From June to August, Alternare joined us in our reforestation efforts and held 6 workshops on how to build fuel-efficient stoves and 2 on cisterns. This led to the construction of 62 stoves.
Alternare Workshops 2011
During 2011 MBF continued supporting Alternare’s ongoing activities engaging kids, teenagers, adults, men and women from local communities in sustainable activities. With support from MBF and other organizations Alternare was able to conduct eight workshops on forest tree production techniques and six on ways to improve tree planting from June to October. A total of 70 individuals (56 women, 14 men) participated in the former and 189 (70 women and 119 men) in the latter.