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article imageDavid Suzuki Foundation works to save the Monarch butterfly

By Marcus Hondro     Sep 15, 2015 in Science
The David Suzuki Foundation is launching a research initiative looking to find the best way to restore the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch's numbers have been decimated over the past two decades and researchers intend to do something about it.
Canadian study on Monarch
A press release announced the foundation is teaming up with University of Guelph conservation biologists Tyler Flockhart and Ryan Norris to study "the most ecological and cost-effective methods" of restoring the Monarch to former numbers.
To do so they said they must find ways to restore the butterfly's natural habitat and food source, milkweed. Among other programs, they will seek to create "butterflyways" that will provide the Monarch with access to milkweed as they traverse their migratory pathways.
"Linear infrastructure corridors are the landscape of greatest opportunity for monarch butterfly conservation across North America," Flockhart said in a news release. "For the next two years we’ll be working to find the most ecological and cost-effective methods to restore monarch habitat.
"(We'll be) providing scientifically-based guidance for the growing movement to recover dwindling pollinators through habitat restoration," he added. "We hope to engage citizen scientists as well."
Milkweed and Monarch
In a February press release the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a program to restore the Monarch by increasing the growth of milkweed.
The amount of milkweed that grows in North America has fallen sharply since the introduction of certain pesticides and herbicides, in particular those containing Glyphosate, found in the widespread Monsanto product Roundup Ready.
Despite prolonged use of Glyphosate its effect on humans, other animals and the environment is still under debate and there are researchers who insist it is a dangerous chemical.
Crops are genetically modified by Monsanto to be Roundup Ready and therefore survive Glyphosate, but the herbicide destroys weeds, including milkweed, and that leaves the Monarch larvae (caterpillar) without a food source.
It is estimated that as recently as 1996 there were one billion Monarchs in North America. Now? It is believed over 90 percent of Monarchs are lost and that their numbers are down to as few as 35 million.
The Suzuki Foundation and the University of Guelph researchers will focus on finding methods of reintroducing milkweed into areas in which it has been eradicated and finding a cost efficient way of doing so.
"If we don't have milkweed," Flockhart told the CBC. "Then we don't have monarchs."
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