Invisible Dust

London | Friday 25 May
Pollution level: Moderate

Monarch Butterfly Migration Lowest in Decades


Photograph by Hope Ryden, courtesy of National Geographic.

Another, more delicate consequence of global warming: the Mexican government and conservation groups have reported that extreme weather in North America has contributed (in combination with changing farming practices) to disrupted migration patterns for monarch butterflies. This year, the number of monarch butterflies completing their annual winter migration from regions of the US to a Mexican forest hit a record low.

That means the lowest number of monarch butterflies migrating in at least the past two decades, and the area of forest they occupied sank to 2.94 acres, down from the record high 50 acres, and even from the 7.14 acres record in December 2011. That’s a 59% decline in the space of one year.

Mexican officials reported that there has been a steady, downward trend in the past seven years, and that the latest decline was worsened by record-breaking heat in North America, which may have disrupted their breeding cycle, dried out their eggs, and lowered the nectar content of the milkweed they feed on – weakening adult butterflies, and lowering the number of eggs they could lay in the first place.

Changes in farming practices have also impacted their food supply – monarch butterflies once found ample feeding ground in the American Midwest, thanks to the milkweed that grew in corn fields, but in many areas, increased use of pesticides has all but eradicated their main source of food. Experts say about 120 million acres, if not 150 million, of the monarch butterflies’ habitat has been wiped out.

Invisible Dust artist Mariele Neudecker’s latest projects on the Deep Sea and the Arctic explore how life persists even in the harshest environments, and yet it seems that now an entire species’ chance at survival in what used to be a comfortable part of the world is being threatened by man-made circumstances.





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