Research Matters

Research Matters

Monarch Migration Threatened

Illegal logging at the Monarch Biosphere Reserve in central Mexico could ruin one of the world's most cherished natural wonders -- the 3,000-mile migration of the monarch butterfly.

Aired April 7, 2008

2 minutes (2.5 MB) | Download mp3


Deforestation in Mexico could ruin one of the world's most celebrated natural wonders. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

According to a KU researcher, the puzzling 3,000-mile migration of the monarch butterfly could collapse without action to defend the Monarch Biosphere Reserve. Chip Taylor, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, leads Monarch Watch, a group dedicated to conservation of the butterfly.

Chip Taylor: "To lose something like this migration is to diminish all of us - to diminish the biodiversity on the planet. And it would be a shame to loose this particular phenomenon because it's so truly spectacular, one of the awe-inspiring phenomena that nature presents to us. We need to understand it; we need to protect it. And if we don't - we're pretty lousy stewards of this planet."

The isolated reserve suffers from illegal logging driven by sky-high prices for lumber in Mexico. This logging has grown in recent years and now threatens the very survival of the butterflies.

Chip Taylor: "It's a remote area in some respects, and it's difficult to police. There are also elements in the sytem that are quite forceful in their illegal logging. They carry guns. They overpower the local residents. They sneak in there at night, sometimes with 100 trucks. They'll clear out 2 or 3 hectares. Now that they've taken out most of the areas where the butterflies don't occur, they're going to be starting work on the areas where they do occur. This prospect is very ominous."

Taylor calls for the planting of more trees, the use of area residents as forest managers, and better interdiction to halt loggers. HE says stakeholders must act quickly.

Chip Taylor: "Since 2000, we've had the three lowest populations we've ever seen at these overwintering sites. Now, we're only averaging about 6 hectares per year. This year the population was 4.61 hectares - it's I think it's the third-lowest population. On the surface, it looks like the population is going down."

For more about the threat to monarchs, log on to Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

Tell Me More

KU researcher says habitat destruction may wipe out monarch migration

Intense deforestation in Mexico could ruin one of North America's most celebrated natural wonders -- the mysterious 3,000-mile migration of the monarch butterfly. According to a University of Kansas researcher, the astonishing migration may collapse rapidly without urgent action to end devastation of the butterfly's vital sources of food and shelter.

Read the full press release