Sunday, 28 August 2016

Storms devastate monarch butterflies' forest habitat in Mexico

Rain cold and high winds destroy 133 acres of trees west of Mexico City
March storms killed 7% of monarchs and added to habit loss by tree-felling

Associated Press in Mexico City
Tuesday 23 August 201621.51 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 23 August 201622.11 BST

Storms earlier this year blew down more than a hundred acres of forests where migrating monarch butterflies spend the winter in central Mexico, killing more than 7% of the monarchs, according to conservationists.

Rain, cold and high winds from the storms caused the loss of 133 acres (54 hectares) of pine and fir trees in the forests west of Mexico City, more than four times the amount lost to illegal logging this year. It was the biggest storm-related loss since the winter of 2009-10, when unusually heavy rainstorms and mudslides caused the destruction of 262 acres (106 hectares) of trees.

This year’s storm also appears to have frozen or killed about 6.2m butterflies, almost 7.4% of the estimated 84m butterflies that wintered in Mexico, said Alejandro Del

“Never had we observed such a combination of high winds, rain and freezing temperatures,” monarch expert Lincoln Brower said of the storms, which struck on 8-9 March.

Two big storm losses within five years may suggest changes in the climatic conditions that have allowed the survival of patches of mountaintop forests. An additional 16 acres (6.5 hectares) of trees were lost to drought this year.

“This points up just how fragile these forests are, and how fragile the monarchs are, and it makes clear the importance of reforestation efforts,” said Omar Vidal, director of the conservation group WWF Mexico, which carried out the forest survey along with experts from Mexico’s National Autonomous University and the government.

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