Californias Monarch butterfly population hits 'potentially catastrophic' low in 2018

monarch butterfly on green leaf

California’s Monarch butterfly
population hit a record low in 2018 after dropping a whopping 86
percent from the previous year. According to the Xerces Society for
Invertebrate Conservation, the total population has declined 97
percent since the 1980s, but this latest one year drop is
“potentially catastrophic.”

In the western part of the United States, monarchs migrate to
California for the winter, traveling from Idaho and Utah. In 2017,
the traditional California coastal sites like Pismo Beach, Big Sur
and Pacific Grove hosted about 148,000 monarchs, but in 2018,
volunteers counted approximately 20,500.

Compare that population to the 1980s, says one of the study’s
researchers Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor at Washington
State University Vancouver. At that time, an estimated 10 million
monarchs spent their winter in California.

According to experts, butterflies are incredibly significant to
the state because they quickly respond to ecological changes and
warn us about the health of an ecosystem. Plus, they
pollinate flowers.

According to biologist Emma Pelton, if nothing is done to
preserve the western monarchs and their habitat, monarch
butterflies could be facing extinction. They require milkweed for
breeding and migration, but in recent years pesticide use and
urban
development
have caused the acreage of milkweed to decline.

Unusually harsh weather has also threatened the monarch’s
existence. Between 2011 and 2017, California has
experienced one of the worst droughts on record, and this has
caused ecological devastation among forested towns and fishing
communities because hundreds of millions of trees have died. Not to
mention, the recent deadly wildfires that have
devastated the golden state.

However, the declining monarch population can be reversed if
citizens and governments act now. Pelton says that gardeners can
plant milkweed and towns can help by planting new trees to help
monarch butterfiles 20 years from now have a new place to
winter.

“We don’t think it is too late to act,” Pelton said.
“But everyone needs to step up their effort.”

Via
New York Times

Image via OLID56

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
Californias Monarch butterfly population hits 'potentially catastrophic' low in 2018