Scientists play crucial role in saving America’s most iconic butterfly

June 25, 2014By
Two monarch butterflies sucking nectar on Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Of the 73 species of native milkweeds, this one is the most important for the monarch butterfly. Credit: Ina Warren

Two monarch butterflies sucking nectar on Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Of the 73 species of native milkweeds, this one is the most important for the monarch butterfly. Credit: Ina Warren

 

University of Arizona researchers are playing a leading role in an unprecedented effort to save America’s most iconic butterfly, the monarch.

Due to loss of habitat for milkweed – the sole food plant of the caterpillars – populations of this important pollinator have plummeted in recent years, leaving the monarch in dire straits.

Laura Lopez-Hoffman, an assistant professor in the UA’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment, and Gary Nabhan, who holds the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the UA’s Southwest Center, are helping bring together researchers, agencies, non-governmental organizations and grassroots movements to design and implement a recovery plan for the .

Experts say the monarch population will continue to decline if the loss of habitat for milkweed continues unabated. In addition, large-scale restoration of milkweed plants will be necessary to offset the losses of habitat that have occurred over the last 15 years.

 

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