[Taxacom] the power of (satellite) images: FW: The Chainsaw and the Butterfly

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Mon Mar 10 07:58:31 CDT 2008

Thanks to David Duthie, here some more details, especially the link to the
original comment at NASA, as well as links to high resolution imagery


-----Original Message-----
From: David Duthie [mailto:david.duthie at unep.ch] 
Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 12:46 PM
To: Donat Agosti
Subject: The Chainsaw and the Butterfly




March 6, 2008,  6:45 pm
The Chainsaw and the Butterfly

By Andrew C. Revkin


The Transvolcanic Mountains of central Mexico contain about 60 square 
miles of forests of oyamel fir and pine which for thousands of years, 
biologists believe, have provided a winter haven for monarch butterflies 
that migrate there from eastern North America.

There has been growing logging pressure on the butterfly reserves set 
aside in the region by Mexico in recent years and enshrined as a 
Biosphere Reserve in 2006 through the United Nations.

Ikonos satellite images taken last month for the Monarch Butterfly 
Sanctuary Foundation show that incursions by loggers are eating into 
some of the core butterfly roosting regions that Mexico pledged 
particularly to protect, according to a research team that posted images 
on NASA's Earth Observatory Web page tonight. I have a short article on 
the monarch butterfly's latest troubles coming in the print paper Thursday.

The Web page includes a short report written by the scientists involved 
in the surveys - led by Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar College and the 
butterfly sanctuary foundation - which concludes:

     Other logging incursions have destroyed several other prime 
overwintering areas within the reserve, making them unsuitable for 
monarch colonies.. An intact forest canopy serves a critical role by 
protecting the monarchs from both freezing cold during winter storms and 
from excessive warmth during the days. If unprotected from the sun, 
monarchs dehydrate and also risk starvation: they burn substantially 
more of their fat reserves when they can't keep cool.

     The researchers are greatly concerned that the entire monarch 
butterfly migration and overwintering phenomenon in eastern North 
America may collapse in the near future if the Mexican government does 
not fully enforce the logging ban.

This is a region I plan to visit as part of my exploration of 
sustainability for The Times (in print and online) through this year and 
beyond. If you've been there, I'd love to hear your impressions of both 
the sanctuary and the logging activity. Presumably there aren't a lot of 
economic prospects there for people outside of the sawmills.

[UPDDATE, 3/7, 9 a.m.:]This great note below just came in. I will do a 
post soon on milkweed and the challenges faced by monarch butterflies at 
the northern end of their range.

     "I just returned last night from Michoacan and Mexican states where 
I visited the monarchs. It is truly one of the world's most greatest 
wonders. I have many facts and fascinating stories to share with you 
about the politics of the local six campasinos who control the core 
preserves.The Mexican NGO Alternare has worked to educate the 37 
campasinos within the preserve to practice sustainable organic farming 
methods to prevent erosion, pesticide pollution, as well as to teach 
them to build their houses with adobe bricks rather than wood. The 
300,000 Mexican peasants living within the preserve can barely afford to 
buy food and resent International tourists who care only about the 
butterflys. The dynamics are complex. The problem calls for creative 
solutions. Nevertheless, the key for everyone in the United States and 
Canada is to buy and plant milkweed in their gardens this summer. It is 
the only plant that can provide the butterflys with the energy needed 
for their long commute to areas in Canada and the US and back again to 
Mexico again in late August. This specific milkweed habitat has dwindled 
dramatically which threatens their existence just as much as the illegal 
logging. The monarch butterfly migration spans four generations. Could 
you write another follow-up monarch article to urge people to plant 
milkweed? I would love to meet with you to discuss my trip as well as my 
participation as the US Fish and Wildlife's designated Monarch 
Ambassador to Mexico.
     - Barbara Matthews Hancock

David Duthie
UNEP-GEF Biosafety Unit
International Environment House (Room D609)
15, Chemin des Anemones, 1219 Geneva
Tel:  + 41 22 917 8741
Mobile: + 41 79 304 9586
Fax: + 41 22 917 8070
Email: david.duthie at unep.ch
Skype:  davidduthie

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