Monarch Butterfly Population In Mexico Drops To New Low
The iconic monarch butterfly, known for its breathtaking annual migration, faces a dire situation as numbers plummet to the second lowest since records began. This year, the Monarch Butterfly population in Mexico has decreased by 59%, with experts pointing fingers at pesticide use and climate change as the primary culprits.
The unique method of measuring the Monarch Butterfly population in Mexico by the area they occupy showed a significant decline, with the butterflies covering only 0.9 hectares (approximately 2.2 acres), a sharp fall from last year’s 2.21 hectares (around 5.4 acres). This concerning figure is only surpassed by the all-time low recorded in 2013 when the coverage dwindled to a mere 0.67 hectares.
Gloria Tavera, the conservation director of Mexico’s Commission for National Protected Areas, highlighted the impact of environmental changes on this decline. “Adverse weather conditions such as storms, drought, and rising temperatures, all attributed to climate change, have played a significant role,” she stated.
The annual journey of the monarchs from Canada and the US to the warmer climes of Mexico and back is one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena. Alarmingly, some traditional winter havens saw an almost complete absence of butterflies this season, indicating a potential shift in their migratory patterns.
This troubling trend is not confined to Mexico. The western monarch population, which winters in California, has also decreased. However, 2022 brought a glimmer of hope with a 35% increase in the monarch count, suggesting a potential for recovery.
Gregory Mitchell from Environment and Climate Change Canada described the decline as “very sobering.” Yet, he remains optimistic, asserting that concerted efforts and available tools can mitigate human impacts on these fragile creatures.
In response to the crisis, Humberto Peña, who leads Mexico’s protected areas, proposed the creation of a “safe corridor” for the migrating butterflies. This initiative would entail reduced usage of herbicides and pesticides and stronger actions against deforestation. In the US and Canada, herbicide use has significantly diminished the availability of milkweed, the monarch’s food source, adding another layer to the multifaceted challenge.
On a positive note, deforestation in the monarchs’ wintering forests in Mexico has seen a substantial decrease this year, with only about 4.1 hectares affected, primarily due to illegal logging. This marks a significant improvement from the previous year’s 58.7 hectares of lost forest cover.
As the monarch butterfly faces an uncertain future, the concerted efforts of conservationists and stricter environmental policies could offer a beacon of hope for this marvel of nature.
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