Mexico monarch butterfly population smallest in years, study says

Scientists that are in charge of annually measuring mexican forestland are now saying that the infamous Mexican Monarch butterfly population is the smallest it’s been in two decades. This is extremely unfortunate because this could greatly effect tourism and the ecosystem. Scientists say the amount of land occupied by the migrating creatures shrank 59% from a year ago. The estimated cause of this is the recently unseasonably warm weather here in the US, as well as the decrease in habitat in the US corn belt. These results were released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Despite this, the decrease in number doesn’t mean that the mexican wildlife habitat is decreasing, because measuring the area that the butterflies occupy is the best way to estimate their numbers. Precise figures are hard to come by, but 1 hectare can contain up to 50 million butterflies. The yearly figures have also been declining because of the change in weather.Chip Taylor, the director of Monarch Watch from the University of Kansas also says that said the decline is dueto the widespread use of the herbicide glyphosate. In states l Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, parts of Ohio and the eastern Dakotas where the butterflies breed, farmers have planted more than 120 million acres of corn and soybeans genetically modified to resist herbicide. The farmers use glyphosate to kill milkweed, which is the monarchs primary source of food. If the Monarchs leave the system, Chip Taylor says: “we’re really pulling the rug out from under a whole lot of other species.” Monarch Watch is now working on broader-scale solutions which will include a system that will get large numbers of milkweed plants to native plant societies as well as other conservation groups around the U.S. This will help preserve the Monarchs.

– Farida Amer

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-mexico-butterflies-20130314,0,1884525.story

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