Nora Caplan-Bricker, journalist, essayist, and critic whose work has appeared in Slate, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine, wrote a beautiful story in Atavist Magazine titled Long May They Reign. The story’s teaser reads “A butterfly named Flamingo, an epic migration, and the crusade to save one of America’s most iconic species.” Dr. Karen Oberhauser is quoted in several places of the story that reminds us of the beauty and remarkable migration of the monarch butterflies.
By now you have probably heard that the forest area occupied by monarch in Mexico was down from last year, to 2.83 hectares. The area occupied by monarch butterflies represented a 53% decrease from last year.
To put this in historical perspective, we’ve created a graph that provides decade means (with only 7 years included in the first “decade”, due to a lack of earlier data). There are big year to year fluctuations that probably result from year to year weather fluctuations during the breeding, migratory, and wintering phases of the annual cycle. Thus, simply saying that the population decreased 53% from last year is not informative. The long-term average since the colonies were first measured is 5.62 hectares. The mean for the past decade is 2.82 ha, almost exactly what was measured this year. Thus, 2019 was an average year for monarchs over the past decade. But this decade represents a big drop from previous decades—with means of 5.84 ha from 2000-2009, and 9.31 ha for the first 7 years that the colonies were measured.
Figure legend: 1994-2003 data collected by personnel of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) of the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP). 2004-2020 data collected by the WWF-Telcel Alliance, in coordination with the Directorate of the MBBR. 2000-2001 population numbers as reported by Garcia-Serrano et. al (in Oberhauser and Solensky. 2004. The Monarch Butterfly: Biology and Conservation).
Data from this year are a stark reminder that a single high year does not mean that the population has recovered, and that monarch numbers reflect habitat availability and weather conditions throughout the annual cycle. While monarch numbers were high in much of the breeding range last summer, monarchs produced in the summer need to migrate successfully and survive the winter as well. Data from this year, combined with those from past years, may help us understand population drivers better.
Today, February, 18 the Monarch Network launched the video titled “Biodiversity: Beyond the Monarch” that illustrates the amazing variety of species that exist in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. During the event, held at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City, the media and the public watched the video after listening to a tribute to Dr. Lincoln Brower given by Mónica Missrie from MBF, and followed by several presentations from several members of the Monarch Network including Board member Dr. Isabel Ramírez who talked about the monarchs and climate change. The video was streamed in the U.S. and Canada. MBF is proud to be a member of the Monarch Network and to fund the video that you can watch below.
On November 22, 2019, the tourist season opened at the Sierra Chincua Sanctuary in Angangueo, Michoacán. As part of this event, Silvano Aureoles, Governor of the State of Michoacán, Hilda Dominguez, Municipal President of Angangueo and Carmelo Martínez, Ejido Leader, unveiled a plaque that remembers Lincoln for “his passion for monarchs, nature, science and conservation”, and commemorates the fact that it was in this sanctuary where Lincoln first saw a butterfly colony and called it “Site Alpha”. MBF Board member, Isabel Ramírez, read a beautiful thank you message from Lincoln’s wife, Linda Fink and gave a brief overview of Lincoln’s work and the role he played in the conservation of this site.
This tribute was made on the initiative of Ejido Cerro Prieto’s ejido leader, with support from Monarch Butterfly Fund, the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, the Monarch Fund and the UNAM Environmental Geography Research Center (CIGA). The memorial is symbolized by a large butterfly made of quarry stone designed by architect Vladimir Argueta-Márquez from Zitácuaro, Michoacán and carved by Maestro Agustín García-Alvarado from Tlalpujahua, Michoacán.
In 2019, MBF funded the update and publication of the “Monarch Cartographic Series: Vegetation and Land Cover 2018” and it is now online on UNAM’s Center for Research in Environmental Geography (CIGA)’s website. Developed by board member Isabel Ramírez, and her collaborators Jairo G. López-Sánchez and Sara Barrasa, this update is the second part of the Monarch Cartographic Series of which Volume 1 was published a decade ago and both are part of a long-term monitoring project of land cover in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) and its surrounding areas. The monitoring will allow us to identify the magnitude and location of changes in land use.
MBF board member Dr. Isabel Ramírez and other authors recently published a paper in a forestry journal form the University of Chapingo. Titled ”Community participation for carbon measurement in forests of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico”, the article describes how participatory mapping workshops were held in four communities to share tree carbon mapping and measurement techniques generating data that can help communities manage their forests and resources more effectively. To read the full article click on the title of the article or here.