Monarch butterflies dying out in western North America

BY ALEX BOURQUE | PUBLISHED: 09-11-2017

If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.

A new study from Washington State University (WSU) reveals that monarch butterfly populations in western North America have declined much more drastically that previously thought.

The study is published in the journal Biological Conservation.
"Western monarchs are faring worse that their eastern counterparts," says lead author Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor at WSU in Vancouver, in a statement. "In the 1980s, 10 million monarchs spent the winter in coastal California. Today there are barely 300,000."

If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.

To arrive at their conclusion, the researchers used data collected since 1997 by hundreds of volunteers who joined the Xerces Society's Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count along with earlier butterfly counts conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s. That allowed them to predict the monarch's risk of extinction over the coming decades.

The exact causes of the monarch butterfly decline are still unclear, but researchers say loss of habitat and pesticide use likely play a large role. Climate change also probably is a factor.

"Scientists, policy makers and the public have been focused on the dramatic declines in the well-known eastern population, yet this study reveals that western monarchs are even more at risk of extinction," said co-author Emma Pelton, endangered species conservation biologist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. "We will need significant conservation action to save monarch butterflies in the West."

Co-author Elizabeth Crone, a professor at Tufts University, notes that in the 20th century, conservationists brought bald eagles back from the edge of extinction by limiting use of the pesticide DDT.

"If we start now, we can make the 21st century the era in which monarchs return to our landscapes," Crone said

 

 

Comments
Laurel Kornfeld - 5 hours ago
If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.
Laurel Kornfeld - 5 hours ago
If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.
Chad Young - 6 hours ago
If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.
Chad Young - 6 hours ago
If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.
Vicky Webb - 6 hours ago
If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.
Paul Pate - 6 hours ago
If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.
Laurel Kornfeld - 6 hours ago
If western monarchs continue to decline at the current rate, they likely will disappear entirely in another 35 years, Schultz adds.