September 11th, 2013 by

Monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies. Credit: Luna sin estrellas/Flickr

The world’s monarch butterflies now fit into an area smaller than four football fields.

Last March, we told you about how pesticides used in Canada and the U.S. are killing the milkweed the monarchs need to survive their long journey.

A new study published in Conservation Biology details how another cause has aided the pesticides in contributing to the monarch’s current plight: illegal logging. From 2001 to 2013, more than 5,380 acres of the monarch’s winter habitat has been lost. While some of the deforestation can be attributed to small-scale community logging, most has been carried out by organized crime:

  1. 3,714 acres lost to large-scale organized crime.
  2. 1,369 acres lost to small-scale community logging to build homes.
  3. 301 acres lost to drought and flood.

What has been the effect of all this forest lost? As we wrote in March, the monarchs are now occupying the smallest space in 20 years. Monarch populations are measured by the size of the area they cover as they blanket the oyamel fir forests of their winter home. (If you try counting them individually, you won’t get very far!) They are now occupying less than three acres.

So, what can be done about it? The good news is that deforestation has slowed. However, we can still work toward the recovery of the forest cover that has already been lost. We’ve partnered with La Cruz Habitat Protection Project for nearly a decade — since some of the worst years of deforestation in the area — to help reforest the monarch’s winter home in Mexico. You can see our work in action by going on our February trip for American Forests members to Michoacán, Mexico, to see the forests there — and the millions of magnificent monarchs that call them home — for yourself.