Conservation groups and butterfly experts are calling attention to the dwindling population of monarch butterflies in the U.S. In the past 20 years, the monarch population has decreased by 90%, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. One of the chief causes of the decline is the dwindling supply of the butterfly's only food source: milkweed. Overtime, farmers along the butterflies' migratory path have doused the plant in pesticide. This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would review a proposal to include the monarch butterfly on the endangered species list.
This episode of DNews discusses what goes into such considerations. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) established protections for animals, starting in 1973 under President Nixon. Species facing the brink of extinction can be classified as "endangered" or "threatened" (close to becoming endangered). Since the law was enacted, it has had great success in bringing all kinds of animals back to sustainable numbers, including bald eagles, grey whales, and wolves. The ESA is now more important than ever, given the World Wildlife Fund's recent report that said we have lost half of the Earth's species in the past 40 years, largely due to human impact.
The Missing Monarchs (via Slate)
"Feeding on a weed seems like a good evolutionary bet. And for a long time, it worked well for the monarch butterfly."
Monarch Butterfly's Reign Threatened by Milkweed Decline (via National Geographic)
"Fewer monarch butterflies are crossing North America to winter in Mexico, and the biggest culprit seems to be the disappearance of milkweed in the United States."
Monarch Butterflies Considered for Endangered Species Status (via Live Science)
"The monarch butterfly, once common across the United States, could soon end up on the Endangered Species List."
Endangered Species Act (via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
"When Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973, it recognized that our rich natural heritage is of ‘esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.'"
The Sixth Great Extinction Is Underway - and We're to Blame (via Time)
"The Earth has been stripped of up to 90% of its species five times before in the past 450 million years. Now it's happening again - and this time there's no rogue asteroid responsible."