An annual survey of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico found that the population was 144 percent higher than it was in 2018. The results, said the World Wildlife Fund on Wednesday, offered “a testament to the power of conservation.”
For the second year in a row, the number of monarch butteflies spending the winter in Mexican forests has declined, said Alejandro Del Mazo, Mexico's commissioner for protected areas.
Monarch butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains are facing extinction, as the number wintering in California has plummeted by more than 90 percent since 1980, says a study published by the journal Biological Conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is debating whether to grant endangered species status to the insect.
With avocado prices on the rise and American demand booming, Mexican farmers are cutting down trees to plant the fruit. “Avocado trees flourish at about the same altitude and climate as the pine and fir forests in the mountains of Michoacan, the state that produces most of Mexico’s avocados,” says The Seattle Times.
Iowa owes its incredibly productive soil to the prairie—the same prairie that farmers have spent decades ripping out, says The Washington Post. Midwestern growers were long instructed to destroy native grasslands in order to make room for row crops. But a new program called STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips) hopes to convince the state’s farmers that they can decrease soil erosion and fertilizer runoff by planting native grasslands in between their regular crops.
Under terms of a settlement, the Interior Department will rule by June 30, 2019, whether the monarch butterfly, which has suffered a huge drop in population, deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act, said two environmental groups. The groups say without help, the well-known orange-and-black insect is at risk of extinction.
Two researchers at Cornell say the factors behind the decline in monarch butterfly populations are wider spread than the loss of milkweed, their summertime food source. They say the list includes sparse nectar sources in the fall, adverse weather and fragmentation of habitat.
The population of the Eastern monarch butterfly declined 84 percent in less than two decades, says a team of researchers.
Two environmental groups sued the Interior Department to force a decision on listing the monarch butterfly as an endangered species.