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MSU researchers develop forecast to aid with conservation of monarch butterflies

Dave Pavlik
Monarch butterflies were recently added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but Spartan researchers are developing new approaches to help protect the insects.

Michigan State University researchers have come up with something that may help conservationists in their efforts to save the monarch butterfly.

Since 1996, the eastern monarch population has decreased by more than 80%. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently added North American monarch butterflies to its list of endangered species.

Climate change is one possible cause behind the population decline.

MSU researchers have developed a forecast model of changing climates to predict which counties in the midwestern U.S. and Ontario are most likely to offer the most hospitable breeding grounds for monarch butterflies.

“If the climate conditions are going to be good for monarchs in particular areas, and we know that, that might be a place to focus our resources and start conservation activities and restoration activities, you know, now,” said Elise Zipkin, an MSU Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology.

Zipkin said she's optimistic about the monarch butterfly’s future.

“There’s still hundreds of millions of them,” said Zipkin, “I don’t think we should be worried that they’re necessarily going to go extinct all that soon. But we should be mindful of the natural world and protecting it.’

Researchers believe if this approach helps save monarchs it can help other threatened species as well.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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