Wildlife

North American monarch population faces quasi-extinction

In the next two decades North American monarch butterflies could be basically gone
  • Apr 04, 2016
  • 256 words
  • 2 minutes
(Photo: docentjoyce/Wikimedia Commons)
Expand Image
Advertisement

North American monarch butterflies could face quasi-extinction in the next 20 years, a study has found.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, said there was “a substantial probability” that the monarch butterfly population faced an 11 to 57 per cent chance of quasi-extinction, adding the caveat that “uncertainty in its estimates was large.”

John Pleasants, an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology at Iowa State University who took part in the study, told the university that quasi-extinction means that so few individual monarchs would exist that their migratory patterns would collapse and the population likely wouldn’t recover.

The study used historic trends and weather population to develop models that could forecast the future monarch population. The researchers simulated different scenarios and variations to calculate the probability of extinction.

The monarch population in the insect’s overwintering habitat in Mexico had declined 84 per cent between 1996 and 2014, before more than tripling during the winter of 2015-16.

Researchers found that although the increase in population seemed positive, it was as a result of favourable summer weather rather than recent conservation efforts. The researchers warned that although recent findings were not good, additional plantings of milkweed, upon which the monarch lays eggs and feeds caterpillars, could help the population.

Pleasants told the university that planting milkweed in yards and gardens would be a good starting point, but that systematic plating of milkweed along roadsides and conservation lands would help even more.

Advertisement

Related Content

Heinrich Scherer's 1702 chart of the North Pole

People & Culture

Why the North Pole matters: An important history of challenges and global fascination

In this essay, noted geologist and geophysicist Fred Roots explores the significance of the symbolic point at the top of the world. He submitted it to Canadian Geographic just before his death in October 2016 at age 93.

  • 5167 words
  • 21 minutes

People & Culture

The truth about polar bears

Depending on whom you ask, the North’s sentinel species is either on the edge of extinction or an environmental success story. An in-depth look at the complicated, contradictory and controversial science behind the sound bites

  • 4600 words
  • 19 minutes
illegal wildlife trade, elephant foot, ivory, biodiversity

Wildlife

The illegal wildlife trade is a biodiversity apocalypse

An estimated annual $175-billion business, the illegal trade in wildlife is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise. It stands to radically alter the animal kingdom.

  • 3405 words
  • 14 minutes
A grizzly bear lies dead on the side of the road

Wildlife

Animal crossing: Reconnecting North America’s most important wildlife corridor

This past summer an ambitious wildlife under/overpass system broke ground in B.C. on a deadly stretch of highway just west of the Alberta border. Here’s how it happened.

  • 3625 words
  • 15 minutes