3,000-mile butterfly migration under threat, courtesy deforestation

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Washington, Apr 6 (UNI) ''The '3000-mile spectacular migration of monarch butterfly'' the celebrated natural wonder in North America is under threat, due to habitat destruction and deforestation.

The migration may collapse rapidly without urgent action to end devastation of the butterfly's vital sources of food and shelter, claims researchers at Kansas University, Science Daily reported.

''To lose something like this migration is to diminish all of us, Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Chip Taylor said.

''It's so truly spectacular, one of the awe-inspiring phenomena that nature presents to us. There is no way to describe the sight of 25 million monarchs per acre.'' he said adding, ''The sensation of standing in a snowstorm of orange as the butterflies cascade off the fir trees.'' ''The monarch migration is truly a wonder,'' Prof. Taylor said.

''Here, you have a fragile insect weighing a half a gram, with a tiny brain, that comes out of Mexico in the spring, migrates up to the breeding areas where it has several generations, then migrates back again to an area that the year's last generation has never been to,'' Prof. Taylor informed.

Prof. Taylor leads 'Monarch Watch', a programme at KU dedicated to research, conservation and education about the butterfly.

Since 1992, Monarch Watch has tracked populations at the Monarch Biosphere Reserve, a 217-square-mile area in central Mexico that is the winter home for millions of migrating butterflies from across the continent.

The increased logging is threatening the very survival of the butterflies. Over the past two winters, millions of monarchs have died from exposure to wind and cold temperatures in clear-cut areas.

Monarch Watch estimates half of the reserve needs reforestation.

''We're developing this country at a very rapid pace with very little attention to wildlife,'' Prof. Taylor said adding, ''In addition, the widespread use of herbicides along roadsides, transgenic crops and expansion into biofuels is reducing habitats for wildlife.'' ''These sorts of losses have to be dealt with if we're going to sustain this monarch population. We have to create new habitats and we have to protect the habitats we have.'' he said.

''There are lessons for life in this butterfly and we need to protect it,'' he remarked.

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