Research has begun along Ontario rail, hydro and municipal corridors
TORONTO — This week the David Suzuki Foundation launched an ambitious multi-year research project with University of Guelph researchers Tyler Flockhart and Ryan Norris that is expected to provide a roadmap for international efforts to bring back migratory monarch butterfly populations. Flockhart was recently awarded a prestigious Libre Ero Fellowship that allows him to continue his leading research into population dynamics of monarch butterflies.
“Linear infrastructure corridors are the landscape of greatest opportunity for monarch butterfly conservation across North America,” said Flockhart, University of Guelph Conservation Biologist. “For the next two years we’ll be working to find the most ecological and cost-effective methods to restore monarch habitat— providing scientifically-based guidance for the growing movement to recover dwindling pollinators through habitat restoration. We hope to engage citizen scientists as well.”
Initial research will be conducted along three corridors in southern Ontario, including the Uxbridge Subdivision on Metrolinx’s Stouffville GO Train corridor; lands adjacent to a Hydro One Transformer Station in Vaughan; and a habitat restoration site within the Milne Dam Conservation Park in the City of Markham.
“We’re excited that progressive agencies like Metrolinx, Hydro One, and the City of Markham have joined the growing, continent-wide effort to help monarch butterflies,” said Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation policy manager. “Our hope is that findings from these initial studies will help spur thousands of kilometres of “butterflyways” along the monarch’s migratory pathways.”
The eastern monarch population has dropped by more than 95 per cent since the 1990s, largely due to the dramatic loss of an estimated 67 million hectares of milkweed plants and monarch habitat — comparable in area to Alberta — along the migratory path from Mexico to southern Canada. The milkweed loss was caused largely by widespread use of the controversial herbicide glyphosate. This has led scientists to speculate that the monarch migration — one of the most awe-inspiring insect journeys on the planet — might come to an end.
This spring, U.S. federal and state agencies made encouraging announcements, including a commitment of US$3.2 million for programs to grow milkweed in schoolyards and gardens and on highway roadsides from Mexico to Minnesota. The U.S. plans to plant millions of milkweed.
In Toronto, the David Suzuki Foundation has spurred planting of more than 15,000 milkweed and pollinator-friendly plants through its annual Got Milkweed campaigns over the past two years. However, the scale of response needed to ensure the continuation of the monarch migration is greater than these local efforts, so the David Suzuki Foundation is keen to continue finding additional agencies and collaborators.
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