After robust recovery in the past years, the monarch population took a blow from loss of habitat area.
For a number of years, as the monarch butterfly populations continued to decline, several conservation groups had been taking steps to try to improve the situation, and starting in 2014, they seemed to be working. In fact, monarch populations, after reaching a low of covering only 1.66 acres in 2013 at their winter habitats in central Mexico, recovered to 2.8 acres in 2014, and jumped to 10 acres in the winter of 2015.
But, just as the recovery seemed well underway, cold temperatures and high winds in March of this year decimated the forests in which the monarchs winter, causing the loss of 133 acres of pine and fir trees.
At the same time, it is estimated the about 6.2 million butterflies were frozen or died, representing almost 7.4 percent of the 84 million population in the region.
According to weather.com, monarch expert, Lincoln Brower, said, “Never had we observed such a combination of high winds, rain and freezing temperatures,” when speaking about the winter storms.
Ironically, an additional 16 acres have been lost to drought conditions this year as well, and director of the conservation group World Wildlife Fund Mexico, Omar Vidal, said the news pointed out just how fragile these forests are, and how important it was to continue reforestation efforts. Vidal’s group conduct the survey that identified the loss of forests along with experts from the Mexican government and the country’s National Autonomous University.
Large portions of the Mexican forests where the monarch winter have fallen to illegal logging in the past, and in April of this year, the government said it was creating a special national police force to attack environmental crimes, though the police squad has not yet been deployed.
Mexico authorized the action of “salvage” logging in the impacted area, allowing crews to remove the already downed trees, a decision that Bower quickly criticized. Bower called the decision was “possibly the worst management mistake that could have been made,” adding the work not only strengthened the interest of logging industry, but also impacted the natural regrowth of the forests.