De­for­esta­tion im­per­ils but­ter­fly re­serve

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST - BY MARK STEVEN­SON

Illegal log­ging more than tripled in the monarch but­ter­fly’s win­ter­ing grounds In cen­tral Mexico, re­vers­ing sev­eral years of steady im­prove­ments, in­ves­ti­ga­tors an­nounced Tues­day.

Al­most all of the loss oc­curred in just one ru­ral ham­let in the state of Mi­choa­can. Log­gers cut down 19 hectares of trees in San Felipe de los Alzati since last year’s gath­er­ing of but­ter­flies. A to­tal of 21 hectares of for­est in the re­serve were lost over­all, in­clud­ing losses due to drought or pests.

That’s the high­est fig­ure since 2009, well above the 8 hectares lost in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the an­nounce­ment by the World Wildlife fund and the In­sti­tute of Bi­ol­ogy of Mexico’s Na­tional Au­ton­o­mous Univer­sity. The 2014 loss was about 5 hectares due to log­ging and 3 hectares to drought.

Illegal log­ging fell to al­most zero in 2012, and ex­perts stressed that 31 of the 32 com­mu­ni­ties in the re­serve had kept log­ging down to very, very low lev­els.

The for­est canopy is a sort of blan­ket against cold for the masses of or­ange-and-black but­ter­flies that form huge clumps on tree branches dur­ing their win­ter stay in Mexico.

Loss of that habi­tat is just one of the threats to the but­ter­flies’ amaz­ing mi­gra­tion across Canada and the United States to Mexico. The mi­gra- tion is an in­her­ited trait: No but­ter­fly lives to make the full round trip, and it is un­clear how they find the route back to the same patch of pine for­est each year. Some sci­en­tists sug­gest the but­ter­flies may re­lease chem­i­cals mark­ing the mi­gra­tory path and fear that if their num­bers fall too low, the chem­i­cal traces will not be strong enough for oth­ers to fol­low.

This year but­ter­flies that reached the win­ter­ing grounds cov­ered 1.13 hectares, a 69 per­cent re­bound from last Fe­bru­ary’s 0.67 hectare, which was the low­est since record-keep­ing be­gan in 1993. But­ter­flies clus­ter so closely to­gether that they are counted by the area they cover, rather than by the num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als.

At their peak in 1996, the monar­chs cov­ered more than 18 hectares in the moun­tains west of Mexico City. But the over­all ten­dency since then has been a steep, pro­gres­sive de­cline. Each time the Monar­chs re­bound, they do so at lower lev­els. The species is found in many coun­tries and is not in dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion, but ex­perts fear the mi­gra­tion could be dis­rupted if very few but­ter­flies make the 5,470-kilo­me­ter trip.

Largely In­dian farm com­mu­ni­ties in the moun­tain re­serve have re­ceived gov­ern­ment de­vel­op­ment funds in re­turn for pre­serv­ing the 56,259 hectare re­serve in the moun­tains west of Mexico City that UNESCO has de­clared a World Her­itage site. Some of the com­mu­ni­ties earn in­come from tourist oper­a­tions or re­for­esta­tion nurs­eries to grow and plant saplings. Fund­ing for the ham­let of San Felipe de los Alzati has tem­po­rar­ily been sus­pended due to the log­ging there.

The fact that most of last year’s loss also oc­curred in San Felipe in­di­cates a grow­ing prob­lem there, said Omar Vi­dal, head of the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico.

“The gov­ern­ment has to step up en­force­ment and start talk­ing more se­ri­ously with this com­mu­nity, to find out the causes” be­hind the log­ging, Vi­dal said. Some com­mu­ni­ties have com­plained that out­side log­gers — some­times armed — in­vade lo­cal forests with­out the con­sent of the com­mu­nity. Other log­ging, how­ever, has been the work of lo­cals who few other job op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

AP

A kaleidoscope of Monarch but­ter­flies hang from a tree branch in the Piedra Her­rada sanc­tu­ary, near Valle de Bravo in the state of Mexico, Jan. 4. Illegal log­ging has al­most tripled in the monarch but­ter­fly’s win­ter­ing grounds in cen­tral Mexico, re­vers­ing sev­eral years of steady im­prove­ments. Al­most all of the loss oc­curred in San Felipe de los Alzati, in the state of Mi­choa­can, over the past year, while lit­tle was lost in 31 other com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to a Tues­day, Aug. 25 an­nounce­ment by the World Wildlife fund and the In­sti­tute of Bi­ol­ogy of Mexico’s Na­tional Au­ton­o­mous Univer­sity.

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