Here’s a little bit of happy news for the environment.
After a period of decline, the monarch butterfly population has made a big comeback in Mexico, where they migrate during North America’s winter season, according to a new report.
Researchers at the Mexican National Commission of Protected Natural Areas and the World Wildlife Fund said they observed a 225% increase from 2015 to 2016 in common habitat areas.
The butterflies are typically found in pine and fir forests in several Mexican states. It takes monarch butterflies about two months to make their way from North America to Mexico. Once they arrive, they cluster in small areas. From 2015 to 2016, the Monarch butterfly’s population — measured by the acres they occupy — covered about 10 acres in the area, compared to 3 acres in 2014.
“The good news coming from Mexico makes me enormously enthusiastic,” Dan Ashe, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a press conference this week. “It indicated that we have the capacity to save the Monarch butterfly of North America.”
The news comes on the heels of a United Nations report released this week warning of the implications of an decrease in pollinators such as butterflies, bees and beetles. The report took two years to complete, with experts around the world poring over 3,000 scientific papers to compile the findings.
The report indicates that wild pollinators in parts of Europe and North America have sharply declined in the past few years. From apples to chocolate, about three-fourths of the world’s food supply relies on pollinators.
The decline is worrisome not only because these creatures could go extinct, but because their absence could also threaten the world’s food supply.
Planting milkweed at schools, highways and other urban environments can help restore the population of pollinators. That’s how researchers were able to help the monarch population rebound, Ashe said.
The species lost 90% of its population since its peak in the mid-1990s, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The dramatic dip in the butterfly’s population is attributed to the loss of milkweed and its prairie habitat in the United States.
But there’s more to be done, Ashe said. “Any and every one of the inhabitants of North America can contribute to achieving the goal of 225 million Monarchs that we’ve established for 2020,” he said.
Although the new numbers are a step in the right direction, the population is still at risk.
“What the scientific monitor is showing is that there is an apparent recovery in the last two years, which is why this is good news,” said Omar Vidal, director general of the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico. “But the threats for the butterfly, for their migration continue.”