Mexico monarch butterfly population smallest in past two decades: research
By Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times ,MCTMEXICO CITY -- Scientists who take the annual measure of Mexican forestland famously occupied by migrating monarch butterflies said Wednesday that the butterfly population is the smallest they have seen in two decades.
March 15, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
The likely cause is unseasonably warm weather recently in the United States, as well as a dramatic loss of habitat in the U.S. Corn Belt, the scientists said.
In a survey carried out in December and January, researchers found nine monarch colonies wintering in central Mexico, occupying a total of 1.19 hectares, or 2.94 acres, a 59 percent decrease compared with the previous year's study.
It was troubling news for the Mexican states of Michoacan and Mexico, where the yearly arrival of the butterflies is a major tourist attraction. Of even greater concern, experts say, is the potential impact that a diminished butterfly population could have on interconnected habitats and species across North America.
The results were released by the World Wildlife Fund, the Mexican government and giant Mexican cellphone company Telcel, which has supported butterfly habitat conservation.
The measurements do not mean that the Mexican habitat is disappearing; rather, 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 may contain as many as 50 million butterflies.