Using milkweed to predict the future of the monarch

The monarch, perhaps the most familiar North American butterfly, relies exclusively on milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.) for food in its larval stages. This study investigates the effects of climate change on the host plants and, consequently, the butterfly.

Data resources used via GBIF : 24,000 species occurrences

The monarch, perhaps the most familiar North American butterfly, relies exclusively on milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.) for food in its larval stages. This study investigates the effects of climate change on the host plants and, consequently, the butterfly. Combining climate projections with 24,000 occurrences, including records from the GBIF network, the study’s author modelled future distributions of milkweed and monarchs in the eastern United States, showing that optimal habitat for milkweed will shift north. What remains uncertain is whether monarchs will follow. Many factors, including genetics, control their migratory patterns, so this vegetation shift may present longer migration distances that could negatively impact the species.

Citations

Lemoine NP (2015) Climate Change May Alter Breeding Ground Distributions of Eastern Migratory Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) via Range Expansion of Asclepias Host Plants. PLOS ONE. Public Library of Science (PLoS), e0118614. Available at doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118614.

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