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The North American migration of monarch butterflies is truly extraordinary. The 3,000-mile journey from Canada to Mexico draws spectators from around the world to behold its magic. In fact, in Mexican folklore, the butterflies are believed to carry the souls of loved ones.
Like most butterflies, monarchs are highly sensitive to weather and climate: They depend on environmental cues (temperature in particular) to trigger reproduction, migration, and hibernation.
Their dependence on milkweed alone as a host plant is a further vulnerability, particularly as milkweed abundance is declining throughout the monarch range.
They also face a decline in their over winter habitat, and the effects of an increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as drought and severe storms, and extremes in hot and cold temperatures.
By the Numbers: According to the Washington Post, between 1990 and 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says, a billion butterflies vanished.
Because over 95 percent of the population migrates en masse to a few patches of Mexican forest, each smaller than half a football field, a single storm or heat stroke could effectively kill off the population. (A smaller percentage of the butterflies winter in Southern California or Florida, where they face their own challenges.)
That nearly happened in 2002, when a winter storm killed about 75 percent of monarchs. And again in 2012, when a heatwave in the Midwest killed tens of thousands.
Bottom Line: As temperatures keep rising and heatwaves keep occurring, scientists don’t know how much longer the monarch migration will be sustained.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Earlier this month, devastating floods washed through western Germany, leaving people dead and swaths of cities destroyed. It was the worst flooding Central Europe has seen in decades, and the short, intense rainfall is “one of the hallmark manifestations of a human-warmed climate,” as Yale Climate Connections put it. […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Carbon border taxes are gaining popularity in North America and Europe, but many are skeptical that taxing imports from countries with weak emissions policies will encourage climate action. Others are calling border taxes unjust. John Kerry, the U.S. Climate Envoy, called border tax policies a “last resort.” Nevertheless, Congressional Democrats have already proposed one […]
While those of us in the conservation community believe every week should be shark week, this one in particular marks the Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week. Each year brings jaw-some programming that allows audiences to learn more about these incredible animals that play a pivotal role in keeping our oceans healthy, often with celebrities partaking […]
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