The Monarch Butterfly Is Facing Its Entire And Irreversible Extinction With A 99.4% Decline

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The monarch butterfly, a majestic black-and-orange pollinator which once covered winter trees like leaves from the Baja California Peninsula up to California’s Central Coast, is now facing a sharp population decline that could mean its irreversible doom.

The Monarch Butterfly Is Facing Its Entire And Irreversible Extinction With A 99.4% Decline

The monarch butterfly, a majestic black-and-orange pollinator which once covered winter trees like leaves from the Baja California Peninsula up to California’s Central Coast, is now facing a sharp population decline that could mean its irreversible doom.


A new survey conducted by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation shows that the iconic North American butterfly, the species which migrates thousands of miles across the continent on a yearly basis, is hovering inches away from extinction.


In 1980, the monarch butterfly population reached approximately 4.5 million. By the mid-2000s, that count dropped to barely 100,000, while in 2018, the number of western monarchs fell to a shocking 28,429 – a 99.4% decline that Xerces Society conservation biologist Emma Pelton described to the San Francisco Chronicle as “this other order of magnitude drop.”


By now, the process of extinction could possibly prove inexorable, plunging the monarch into an “extinction vortex” wherein the species won't be able to replenish its numbers through its natural reproductive process.


The cause of the monarch’s steep and rapid decline has forced biologists to look for answers as to why the die-off has occurred. A variety of factors could be involved, all of which are tied to human economic activities ranging from logging and sprawling urbanization to pesticide and herbicide use on industrial corn and soybean crops as well as the plowing of the monarch’s milkweed habitat along the route by which it migrates.


The Xerces Society conducted the survey on Thanksgiving Day with the aid of hundreds of volunteers who counted butterflies in about 300 locations across California, a method by which the conservationist group has maintained a record of the monarch populations throughout decades.


Scientists had suggested that since the mid-20th century, when radioactive fallout from above-ground nuclear weapons tests started to spread across the globe, and human impacts on the environment started to accelerate rapidly, the earth entered a new epoch where human society became the main geological force whose actions determined the future of the entire planet.


Dubbed the Anthropocene – a combination of the Greek word anthropos (“human”) and kainos (“new”) – the modern epoch is the first genuinely human-made geological period in the Earth’s history. It's also entailed mass extinctions of plants and animals alike.


Whether humankind maintains the ability to shape our ecological environment for the better is still an open question. However, the mass demise of the monarch butterfly and countless other species suggests that the precious time within which we are able to steer the Earth in a radically different direction on a system-wide level is quickly running out.

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Thinking Humanity: The Monarch Butterfly Is Facing Its Entire And Irreversible Extinction With A 99.4% Decline
The Monarch Butterfly Is Facing Its Entire And Irreversible Extinction With A 99.4% Decline
The monarch butterfly, a majestic black-and-orange pollinator which once covered winter trees like leaves from the Baja California Peninsula up to California’s Central Coast, is now facing a sharp population decline that could mean its irreversible doom.
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