This winter we visited a Monarch sanctuary in the Sierra Madre mountains in Michoacan, Mexico near the town of Angangueo. The Monarch butterflies arrive in colonies through the month of November and stay until March. Anywhere from 60 million to 1 billion Monarchs migrate to this area every winter. The El Rosario preserve is at an altitude of 11,000 feet. One can hike up 3 kilometers from the entrance, or ride horses most of the way. (For books and note cards visit Lightport Books)
We arrived at the site of one of the many colonies of Monarchs in the area, and saw tens of thousands of butterflies sleeping in the pine trees. Those are not leaves on the trees, they are sleeping Monarchs.
Toward midday when sunlight begins to filter into the forest, the butterflies begin to wake up.
The trees begin to turn orange.
The sunlight gives the butterflies energy.
One can see they are living in pine trees after all.
And eventually they take flight in search of water on the ground or at a river nearby.
This article appeared online at a UK site. It describes the alarming decrease in biodiversity worldwide. (More info on biodiversity at Lightportbooks)
By Robert Thompson
15 July 2016
Scientists warn that, if left unchecked, biodiversity loss could have devastating consequences
An international team of scientists has issued a warning that biodiversity is dropping below safe levels for the support and wellbeing of human societies.
As a species we are inextricably connected with the processes of our local ecosystems, such as crop pollination, waste decomposition and regulation of the carbon cycle.
These ecosystems depend on the biological diversity within them to function.
The planetary boundaries framework updated in 2015 states that losing more than 10% of the biodiversity in an area places the local ecosystem at risk.
A report in Science this week states that 58% of the world’s land coverage already falls below this safe level. They find that the global average of biodiversity has dropped to 85% of that of unaffected ecosystems.
The majority of the Earth’s land coverage was found to be below safe values of 90% biodiversity
Ascertaining the level of biodiversity loss that an ecosystem can endure is not straightforward and will be dependent upon individual ecosystems. Therefore a definitive level of 10% loss must be taken with caution.
Co-author Prof Andy Purvis, from Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum, explained: “Once we’re the wrong side of the boundary it doesn’t mean everything goes wrong immediately, but there is a markedly higher risk that things will go badly wrong.”
Trying to further refine the “safe” value of 10% also produces risk, by increasing the value and allowing even further degradation of ecosystems irreversible damage could occur.
Adding credibility to the report, Owen Lewis, professor of ecology at Oxford University, who was independent of the research, told the BBC: “This is definitely a situation where the precautionary principle needs to be applied: we can’t afford to wait to see the long-term consequences of degradation of natural ecosystems.”
The team explained that we are now approaching a situation where human intervention may be needed to sustain ecosystem functions. With levels of biodiversity loss so high, if left unchecked, they could undermine efforts towards long-term sustainable development.
Dr Tim Newbold, from University College London (UCL) and part of the team delivering the report, explained to the BBC: “The loss of biodiversity will reduce the resilience of ecosystems in the face of environmental changes such as global warming.”
The report provides the most detailed global analysis of biodiversity to date, with over 1.8 million records, providing an accurate view of the current state of the Earths decline in biodiversity.
“We hope that the report will inform policy makers and debate on how we use the Earth’s land,” said Dr Newbold
On February 26, 2016 the Associated Press reported that the United Nations released a “scientific mega-report” finding that, “Many species of wild bees, butterflies and other critters that pollinate plants are shrinking toward extinction, and the world needs to do something about it before our food supply suffers.”
The report goes on to say some 20,000 species of pollinators are key to billions of $ worth of crops including fruits, vegetables, coffee and chocolate. But 40% of the species including bees and butterflies are heading for extinction.
There is a lot one can do with a backyard garden. Many plants and flowers are food for pollinators. It’s fun to see a garden come alive with color and wildlife. The Xerces Society has several publications that recommend which flowers and plants to grow by region to attract pollinators.
At Lightport Books we’ve just released a new title: “Birds, Bees and Butterflies ABCs: How They Help Our Food to Grow“, a children’s picture book which would be great for the classroom, library or home.
We also have “Backyard Butterfly & Skippers” note cards with photos of beautiful butterflies and their host plants, which are identified on each card for people who may want to plant them in their yard, a container or a garden.
From Lightport Books: From The Xerces Society