Monarch Watch Update - March 30, 2005
http://www.MonarchWatch.org
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Contents:

1) Status of the Population

2) Conservation: Monarch Waystations

3) Tag Recovery

4) La Cruz Habitat Protection Project

5) Pacific Grove Meeting

6) Images from the Monarch Sanctuaries

7) Preliminary Tagging Analysis

8) Notes on the Western Population

9) Thank You Map Resources!

10) About Our Update List

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Unless otherwise noted, all content was authored by Chip Taylor, edited by Jim Lovett and Sarah Schmidt, and published by Jim Lovett. The complete web version of this update is available at: http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0330.html

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1) Status of the Population

Smallest overwintering population on record

As most of you know, the monarch population in Mexico this past winter season was at an all time low (2.19 hectares). The possible reasons for these low numbers (e.g., losses due to the winter storms of 2004, poor recolonization in the spring, a cold breeding season, loss of milkweed habitat in the U.S. and Canada due to the adoption of glyphosate tolerant crops and a reduction in the quality of the overwintering habitat in Mexico due to illegal logging) are discussed in a report prepared by numerous monarch experts ( http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0221_Sci_Adv_Rpt_11.pdf). All of these factors, and perhaps even others, contributed to the low numbers. Unfortunately, our knowledge of monarch biology and our ability to monitor the monarch population is not comprehensive enough to give us an understanding of how each of these factors contributed to the lower numbers. As always, there is much we need to learn. ...

[ Read the full text of this article at http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0330.html#1 ]

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2) Conservation: Monarch Waystations

Monarch Watch is moving in a new direction. Although we have always emphasized education, conservation, and research, we have, in fact, given less support to conservation. The extensive deforestation in the last year in Mexico, the rapid adoption of herbicide resistant crops in the last 5 years that appear to have eliminated 80-100 million acres of monarch habitat and the incremental losses of farm and ranch land signal a substantial decline in the habitat available to monarchs in North America. The record low number of monarchs at the overwintering sites in Mexico this past winter is certainly, in part, a reflection of this decline. It is time to act - we need to protect monarch habitats in both the United States and Mexico. In addition, we need to create new habitats for monarchs and to this end we are introducing the concept of "Monarch Waystations". Our objective is to not only create habitats for monarchs but to use the concept to educate and engage the public in a conservation effort. It is our hope that public awareness will lead to wildlife friendly management of public and private lands and to legislation that will support monarch conservation. ...

[ Read the full text of this article at http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0330.html#2 ]

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3) Tag Recovery

This winter has been a tough one for us financially and we weren't able to take the whole crew to Mexico this year to deliver materials to schools and buy tags. Yet, the tag buying had to be done even if we didn't have all the money we needed. So, on Wednesday the 16th of March I headed to Mexico with Janis Lentz for the express purpose of buying tags before the sanctuaries shut down for the season. ... In all, we purchased over 1,500 tags at a cost of $6,800. This amount, combined with the over $1,200 paid to those who purchased tags in our behalf means that we spent over $8,000 on tags this year. Together with the $12,000 spent last year, the tagging operation has contributed $20,000 to the families that live on the land, manage the forests, and protect the butterflies. ...

[ Read the full text of this article at http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0330.html#3 ]

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4) La Cruz Habitat Protection Project

If you don't know about the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project, you should. On our trip to Mexico to acquire tags, we took a side trip to visit Jose Luis Alvarez, the creator and director of this project. The world's appetite for softwood lumber for construction and paper products, driven in part by the rapidly growing economies in southeast Asia, is partly responsible for the rapid increase in illegal logging in Mexico during the last year (see the The Mexico-Chile-China connection in the June 2004 Update). Through the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project Jose Luis grows and distributes (at no cost to the landowner) seedlings of pine and oyamel fir trees. Over the last 7 years 1,150,000 trees have been planted on private lands in the vicinity of the monarch overwintering sites. The trees grow rapidly in this environment and the sequential harvest that accompanies the required thinning of the tree stands allows the landowner to earn substantially more from this use of the land than from more traditional crops such as corn. In theory, these mini-forests benefit the monarchs indirectly by providing forest products for the local market thus lessening the demand for mature trees in the monarch reserves. The problem is that the demand for tree products is increasing faster than the ability of Jose Luis or the government to reforest the region and the problem is getting worse since the government is shutting down a number of nurseries for seedlings due to the high cost of production. Clearly, much more reforestation is needed in the area and since reforestation is one of the potential solutions to long term conservation of monarchs, I wanted to have a first hand look at pine and oyamel seedling production and to talk to Jose Luis about the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project. The pictures below provide views of portions of the seedling production managed by Jose Luis.

For more information about the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project see http://www.michoacanmonarchs.org/MichoacanNewsletter2003.pdf (PDF file)

Images: http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/LaCruz/

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5) Pacific Grove Meeting

You should have been there! The monarch symposium held at Alisomar in Pacific Grove in conjunction with the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, was terrific! The only problem was that the meeting was too short and there just wasn't enough time for those of us who want to talk monarchs non-stop to get it out of our systems. I've prepared a series of photos to give you a sense of the area and its wildlife and have included images of most of the speakers and a few of the participants. The only speakers not pictured below are Nelli Thorngate of the Big Sur Ornithology Laboratory, Ventana Wilderness Society, Monterey, California, and Kingston Leong of the Biological Sciences Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA. Titles of the talks given by the speakers can be found in the February Update.

Images: http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/PacificGrove/

[ Read the full text of this article at http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0330.html#5 ]

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6) Images from the Monarch Sanctuaries

In February I was scheduled to visit the monarch sanctuaries with a group of entomologists. Unfortunately, a leg injury that was slow to heal prevented me from participating in this adventure. After their return, the coordinator of the group, Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy from Kansas State University, sent all of us an email giving us access to a digital photo album he prepared of the trip. Some of the monarch shots are excellent and "Sonny" has graciously allowed me to post a number of the images in this Update so that those of you who haven't visited the colonies can get a better sense of what it is like to be in the midst of millions of butterflies.

Images: http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0330_sanctuaries.html

Video: http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/rosario.mov (4MB QuickTime Movie)

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7) Preliminary Tagging Analysis

The following in the abstract of a presentation given at the Pacific Grove Meeting earlier this month.

Monarch tagging in 2001 and 2003: A preliminary analysis.

Orley R. Taylor, Jim Lovett, Sarah Schmidt and Tyler Schmidt
Monarch Watch, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Funds obtained from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks allowed us to create a database for the monarch tagging conducted in 2001 and 2003. We chose to analyze the data for these years, in preference to others, since the winters that followed the tagging of 2001 and 2003 were characterized by catastrophic mortality due to winter storms, that resulted in the recovery of unprecedented numbers of tagged butterflies. The following is a preliminary assessment of the coarser details of the tagging and recovery as revealed by our analyses. This information was presented at the meeting of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America in Pacific Grove, California (1-2 March 2005). The tagging data is a veritable gold mine and more information will be forthcoming at a future date. ...

[ Read the full text of this article at http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0330.html#7 ]

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8) Notes on the Western Population

Western Overwintering Season Ends

The remaining few monarchs at most western overwintering sites are tired males. Early spring weather hit in patches throughout February, between BIG storms up and down the coast, stimulating mating and spring dispersal. Site monitors are now turning towards data entry and evaluation, but it looks like it was a low year overall in California. ...

[ Read the full text of this article at http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/2005/0330.html#8 ]

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9) Thank you Map Resources!

A big THANK YOU goes out to Map Resources - the company has recently donated some of their incredible Royalty Free digital maps to Monarch Watch. These maps will will be used to enhance resources available on our website, to present data generated by the tagging program, and in many other projects!

To check out their maps yourself visit their website at

http://www.mapresources.com/

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