Monarch Butterflies Could Gain Endangered Species Protection

By John R. Platt, Scientific American

The flutter of a single butterfly’s wings may or may not be capable of causing tsunamis, but the loss of millions of butterflies is definitely being felt here in North America. Populations of the iconic and beloved monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) have dropped an astonishing 96.5 percent over the past few decades, from an estimated 1 billion in the mid-1990s to just 35 million in early 2014. Conservation groups have been worrying about this decline for several years, and last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finally took notice. According to the agency, monarch butterflies may deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The FWS decision comes in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, as well as monarch scientist Lincoln Brower, professor emeritus at Sweet Briar University in Virginia.