Monarch butterfly added to international endangered species list

The migratory monarch butterfly took a step closer to extinction on Thursday, as scientists put the iconic orange and black insect on the international endangered list as their numbers are rapidly declining. .

“It’s just a serious decline,” said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University who was not involved in the new list. “This is one of the most recognizable butterflies in the world.”

In 2016, the Monarch butterfly was designated an endangered species by the Committee on Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Now, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has added the migratory monarch butterfly for the first time to its “red list” of threatened species and classified them as “endangered” – two more steps to go. is extinct.

The team estimates that monarch butterfly populations in North America have declined by 22% to 72% over 10 years, depending on the method of measurement.

“What we’re worried about is the rate of decline,” said Nick Haddad, a conservation biologist at Michigan State University. “It’s easy to imagine how quickly this butterfly could get bolder.”

Haddad, who was not directly involved in the list, estimates that the number of monarch butterfly species he studies in the eastern United States has declined by 85% to 95% since the 1990s.

“What’s happening to monarch butterflies is like the death of thousands of cuts,” said Karen Oberhauser, an American conservation biologist who studies monarch butterflies.

“We know that over the last 30 years the number of monarchs has decreased, at first really falling sharply for the first 15 years, then more slowly and with a lot of annual fluctuations from year to year.”

The longest migration of insects

In North America, millions of monarch butterflies undertake the longest migration of any insect known to science.

After wintering in the mountains of central Mexico, these butterflies migrate north, breeding for generations along thousands of kilometers. The chicks reach southern Canada and then begin their journey back to Mexico in late summer.

Plants such as the milkweed, described here with monarch butterflies, are important for maintaining the monarch butterfly’s life cycle. These insects are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, use of herbicides and pesticides, and climate change. (Michael Charles Cole / CBC)

“It’s a real sight and leaves us in awe,” said Anna Walker, a conservation biologist at the New Mexico BioPark Society who was involved in defining the new list.

A smaller group spends winter in coastal California, then disperses in spring and summer across several states west of the Rocky Mountains of the United States. This population has fallen even more severely than the eastern monarchs, although there was a small rebound last winter.

Emma Pelton of the non-profit Xerces Society, which monitors Western butterflies, said the butterflies are struggling due to habitat loss and increased use of herbicides and pesticides for agriculture, as well as climate change.

She said: “There are things people can do to help, including growing succulents, a plant that caterpillars depend on.

The non-migratory monarch butterflies of Central and South America are not considered endangered.

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