Monarchs and Ecosystems
Monarch butterflies are a key indicator species for all of NAFTA. Living in summer in Canada, migrating the across US twice a year and wintering in Mexico, monarch butterflies are both beautiful and fragile. Human activity is a major threat to monarchs. When I visited the Monarcha sanctuary in the 1980s work was beginning to try to conserve the few remaining mountain tops where they would winter. Millions of butterflies caused trees to droop under the weight. The sky was orange with the insects when the sun warmed the treetops. A unique site on earth, the habitat has diminished and many other human activities in the other parts of their range are under stress. The recent article below details these issue and some of the actions which can be done to conserve and restore this signal species.
Living Planet 2018 Spring Issue
During the past two decades, the monarch population has dropped by more than 80 per cent. Climate change, shrinking wintering forests in Mexico, pesticide use and waning milkweed habitat along their migratory corridors are mainly to blame for the downward trend. The plight of the monarch is well known but not unique. The Living Planet Report Canada found that half of monitored vertebrate species in Canada are declining, and identified habitat loss as one of the main reasons for wildlife loss. The remaining pockets of green in and around our communities and backyards are hugely important for wildlife struggling to hold on. “The easiest thing Canadians can do to reverse the decline of monarchs – and other native wildlife – is to restore their natural habitat,” Ewins says. “One way we can all contribute is by growing more of the native plants that wildlife co-evolved with and depend on, such as milkweed.” In southwestern Ontario’s Carolinian zone, an ecoregion that is home to onethird of Canada’s at-risk plants and animals, hundreds of people are embracing the challenge. With In the Zone, a joint initiative with Carolinian Canada that provides garden guides, access to experts and a citizen-science tracker, these people are reintroducing native plants to their properties and recording their contributions to habitat restoration. If you don’t live in the Carolinian zone, you can still make a difference for pollinators, birds, salamanders, frogs, turtles and other native wildlife affected by habitat loss. Visit the North American Native Plant Society (nanps.org) to find a native plant nursery or garden centre near you. These individual efforts are critical to restoring and conserving our country’s biodiversity. The more lost habitat we restore in our own neighbourhoods, the fewer habitat gaps there will be for monarchs crossing the continent, for bees moving from one nectar-producing flower patch to the next and for migrating wildlife. Together we can help reverse wildlife decline, one garden at a time. l Visit inthezonegardens.ca ‘One way we can all contribute is by growing more of the native plants.’ NATIVE GARDENS YOU CAN HELP MONARCHS REBOUND Butterflies have a better chance of survival thanks to small actions by people like you A butterfly flutters its wings and the small vibrations have a big effect felt far away. There is a seed of truth to this cliché: small actions can have a big impact. This is especially true for the monarch. The survival of this bright orange butterfly with its distinctive black markings and white spots hinges on the small actions of people like you, specifically what you plant this spring. Instinctively following the sunshine and spring flowering across the continent, a fresh generation of monarchs are expected to arrive in southern Canada from late May to June (the great-grandchildren of those that took flight to Mexico last fall). At different points along this miraculous return trip, they will lay eggs. And when those caterpillars hatch, they will need a specific food source: milkweed. Without it, we can expect fewer monarchs to colour the sky. “With the longest migration of any insect in the world, there are many places where monarchs can become vulnerable,” says Pete Ewins, WWF-Canada’s lead species expert. “There isn’t just one place to protect.” © FRANK PARHIZGAR/WWF-CANADA ©
© FRANK PARHIZGAR/WWF-CANADA