Friday's Findings - November 20 2020

Release Date:

Imperilment and Recovery of the Monarch Butterfly

Date: November 20, 2020 from 2-2:30 p.m. eastern time

Speaker: Wayne Thogmartin, USGS-Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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Call-in Option: 1 202-640-1187
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Monarch on Joe Pyeweed plant

Monarch butterfly on a Joe Pyeweed plant. (Credit: Emily Weiser, USGS. Public domain.)

Summary: The eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus plexippus) has declined by >80% within the last two decades. This decline, along with concerns relating to the near extirpation of the western migratory population, has led to consideration for listing the species as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. To support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in addressing information needs relating to the Species Status Assessment, USGS formed the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership (MCSP). This partnership is a consortium of government and non-government scientists and policy analysts focused on better understanding the magnitude, causes, and implications of decline and possible strategies for recovery of the species to former levels of abundance. The MCSP delivered information pertaining to species status and trend, it’s risk of extinction, an analysis of threats facing it, and strategies for addressing those threats. One possible cause of species decline is the loss of ≥1.3 billion stems of milkweed (Asclepias spp.), which monarchs require for reproduction. The MCSP described an approach for returning milkweed to the landscape, an approach requiring participation from all sectors of society to be successful. The MCSP’s efforts spawned the largest Candidate for Conservation Assurances, an agreement among 45 energy and transportation concerns, as well as the Mid-American Monarch Conservation Strategy, a recovery plan developed and adopted by most of the states in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. To facilitate these conservations and to assist in further in conservation design and delivery, the MCSP designed a continental-scale breeding ground monitoring program.

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Over the last two decades, the Eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies has declined by about 80%, leading many scientists to consider how to best conserve and rebuild monarch populations. Conservation efforts can be challenging to design and execute because of the multi-generational migration of monarchs that spans North America....