Creating Habitat: A Statewide Experiment for the Western Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

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Asia Jones , Kim Armstrong , Helen Swagerty , Cheryl Schultz, Emily Mullins , Erin Hagen

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The Western Monarch’s migratory population has dropped by over 90% in 3 years, putting the migratory phenomena in peril in coming decades, if not sooner (Xerces 2020). Extinction is driven in part by loss and degradation of migratory and breeding habitat. To increase habitat connectivity and fill knowledge gaps, River Partners established a project to enhance over 600 acres of habitat across California. Collaboration among public agencies, academics and species experts led to prioritization of sites where monarch habitat could be integrated into planned activities on existing restoration areas with irrigation infrastructure, as well as areas with relatively low weed pressure, limited pesticide use on adjacent land, and overall state-wide geographic representation. Experimental design considered habitat plot size, distance to water, and vertical structure, while milkweed and additional pollinator plant densities are consistent across the large geographical range and differing ecotypes. Multiple pollinator visited plants were included at sites to floral landscapes with sustained flowering phenology. Responses to the restoration experiment will take into account flowering diversity and examine patterns in pollinator abundance and diversity, in addition to patterns of monarch egg deposition. This project design is novel with regards to its state-wide scale, collaborative planning, and also transferability—our methods can be implemented on diverse restoration projects to support the recovery of this imperiled species today.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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