2016-04-27. Monarchs Need Better Pit Stops on Their Epic Journeys.

posted Apr 29, 2016, 9:22 AM by Alan Gould
By Susan Cozier, Natural Resources Defense Council. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 6 and Losing Biodiversity chapter 1, 5, or 8. Excerpt: Projects across the Midwest are trying to bring milkweed and nectar-filled flowers back to the landscape. ...In the past 25 years, monarch numbers have taken a nosedive, plummeting more than 90 percent due primarily to habitat destruction. The butterflies migrate back and forth across North America, fluttering south to Mexico for the winter and north as far as Canada in spring and summer. The round-trip journey spans three butterfly generations or more, and to make it, they need plants: those that provide nectar to fuel them and those that help them make more monarchs. Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs lay eggs and is crucial to the species’s survival. ...[Mary] Galea’s project, part of the Pollinator Partnership, is just one of many looking at how we can revive monarch populations across the United States. The plants Galea and others are growing could prove critical to monarch populations in Ohio. Real success, however, won’t rely only on the greenery in our backyards, parks, and roadsides; we’ll also have to address what chemicals we spray on farm crops. Once upon a time, milkweed grew naturally on farms, between fields  of corn and soybeans. But farmers, under pressure to increase their yields, plowed fallow fields and started growing genetically modified crops designed to resist the powerful herbicide glyphosate (marketed as Roundup). Knowing these “Roundup ready” crops could withstand widespread application of the herbicide, farmers would spray entire fields with the chemical instead of targeting their crops directly. Now, native plants, such as milkweed, die right along with the unwanted weeds. As the milkweed went, so went the monarchs. By some estimates, the amount of milkweed along the monarchs’ midwestern path fell nearly 60 percent between 1999 and 2010. And we’re still losing one to two million acres of habitat a year, thanks to development, over-mowing, and pesticides, says Chip Taylor, a prominent monarch researcher at the University of Kansas and head of Monarch Watch....  https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/monarchs-need-better-pit-stops-their-epic-journeys