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Wednesday, January 27 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
Milkweed Restoration Strategies: Storylines For Recovery of The Imperiled Monarch Butterfly

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AUTHORS: Wayne E. Thogmartin*, U.S. Geological Survey

ABSTRACT: Over the past year, concern regarding the ongoing decline in numbers of monarch butterflies Danaus plexippus, which have decreased by >90% since 1996, has developed into an urgent crescendo of calls to arrest the decline by planting more milkweed (Asclepias spp.) and nectar plants. Milkweeds are the monarch’s primary food source during the larval stage. It has been estimated that since the early 1990s, one billion milkweed stems have disappeared in the U.S. Midwest, primarily from agricultural fields planted in corn and soybean genetically modified to be glyphosate resistant. Based upon expert assessment, we evaluated five main sectors singly and in combination for their ability to restore milkweed to former levels of abundance. These five main sectors were grasslands publicly held in the conservation estate, Conservation Reserve Program lands, road, railroad, and utility rights of ways, a citizen involvement sector emphasizing added milkweed in the daily environment of citizenry, and an agriculture sector. The two main agriculture storylines involved small modifications to the amount of milkweed in the agricultural environment, principally through increases in organic corn, popcorn, and other non-GMO cropping practices. The other agriculture storyline, at the other end of the spectrum, emphasized removing land on poorly productive soils from crop production (perhaps turning it into CRP) or reverting to a non-GMO crop, both of which cover approximately 17% of the area. Of the 200+ storylines we examined, only four- and five-sector combination storylines were capable of yielding the one billion+ milkweed needed, and then only when the agricultural sector altered either the type of cropping practices it employed or ended them altogether on poorly productive soils.

Wednesday January 27, 2016 2:20pm - 2:40pm EST