Monarch butterflies are the first thing people imagine when picturing a butterfly. The number of monarch butterflies is dwindling rapidly. According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, “a decline of approximately 80 [percent]has been seen in central Mexico and a decline of approximately 99 [percent] has been seen in coastal California.”
The population of butterflies went from hundreds of millions to a few thousand in the last 20 years. This threatens to destroy the balance in the ecosystem as these butterflies pollinate numerous flowers around the world and act as food to several small animals.
The cause of the demise of the monarch butterflies is climate change, urbanization and their effects on the environment monarch butterflies depend on for survival.
Urbanization has destroyed the majority of the milkweed plants that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. Urbanization has taken over areas where this plant typically grows, posing a threat to the butterflies as it limits their reproductive capabilities.
Urbanization has also limited the butterflies’ migration routes. This is especially true in Mexico, an increase in deforestation and development has limited available migration locations for the butterflies during the winter.
Climate change is also affecting the habitats of these animals. According to National Geographic, in addition to urbanization reducing the availability of milkweeds, the increased levels of carbon dioxide are making the plants too toxic for monarch consumption.
Additionally the rising temperatures caused as a result are also affecting the migration patterns of monarch butterflies. As the temperatures increase, the monarchs have to fly farther North during the summer months otherwise they would molt and inevitably die.
Thus far, the conservation of National Parks has been a saving grace for these butterflies. These parks ensure the butterflies will have a habitat. Conservationists have tagged the monarchs spotted in these parks to allow further studies of the migration patterns. Monarchs have been tagged from a variety of national parks in a variety of parks to collect as much information as possible.
A primary agent in the monarch butterfly conservation movement has been Wildlife Without Borders, a grant program from Mexico which works to protect and replenish the habitats of the monarch butterflies. This program has existed since the mid-1990s, when the numbers of the monarch butterflies began to decline.
This was not Mexico’s first attempt to preserve the existence of monarch butterflies. In 1986, Mexicocreated the Mariposa Monarca, or in English the Monarch Butterfly, Biosphere Reserve. This protects forest land within four distinct butterfly sanctuaries.There are several agencies in Mexico and the U.S that contribute to the conservation effort, despite the public’s lack of knowledge on the subject.
Despite the drastic decrease in the monarch population, the butterflies are not officially listed on the endangered species list. Currently they do have the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This is the temporary status given to the butterflies, a permanent decision will be made by the end of the year.
The programs and agencies cannot save the butterflies on their own, the public needs to be aware that the environmental decisions of humanity, affect the the other animals in the ecosystem. Human perseverance should not be at the expense of the defenseless.