visit to the Monarch reserves (long)

Paul Cherubini monarch at
Fri Mar 7 20:16:32 EST 2003

Jim Mason wrote:

> Proceeds from the trip benefited the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project,
> which grows trees to be planted in areas adjacent to the Monarch reserves.
> These trees will eventually provide a source of both firewood and income for
> the landowners and reduce or hopefully eliminate the perceived need to cut
> down the trees in the reserves, which is a grave threat to the ecological
> integrity of the reserves.  

Jim, could you explain how forest thinning is a "grave threat"? The forests in 
the central Mexican highlands are not virgin, but have been selectively thinned for 
centuries.  And for centuries the monarchs have been overwintering 
successfully in the thinned forests.  I am unaware of any study that has 
conclusively linked forest thinning to a gravely increased level of butterfly 
mortality. To the contrary, last winter 75% of the monarchs reportedly died 
during a freeze at the Chincua colony habitat where the forest is especially 
thick and mortality was light where the forest is much thinner (the Cerro Pelon
colony habitat).  

> Initially, he had some difficulty finding landowners who were 
> willing to quit row crops and plant a forest instead.  

Could you expand a bit on this?  Mexican farmers, like USA farmers, grow
row crops to feed themselves or to earn an income.  If a Mexican landowner is 
pursuaded to grow a forest instead of row crops, how does he make up for 
the lost food or income?  

> The first length of the road was very dry and dusty with plowed fields on
> either side.  Of course, this was the dry season down there, but still it
> was very obvious the impact cultivation has on the ecological health of the
> area.  Scattered monarchs were seen along the way, particularly at mud
> puddles.

Yes, the monarchs were obtaining drinking water from mud puddles, but they 
were artificial mud puddles created by the same human disturbances (the road and
land cultivation) that created the dust.  Therefore, does the land cultivation
really negatively impact the monarch?

> The trail formed a natural highway for the Monarchs, and the rustle of their
> wings as they flew around us was a constant presence.  

Wasn't "the trail that formed a natural highway" actually an artificial 
clearing in the forest created by logging?  

> In places, little rivulets from the hillside spilled across the road,
> forming ideal puddling sites.  These were absolutely covered with Monarchs!

Yes, but wasn't it logging that created the road which in turn 
created the water puddles the butterflies were drinking from?

> The second reserve we visited was Cerro Pelon.  That was an even more
> spectacular sight.  We arrived around midday and the road leading up to the
> reserve was a river of orange butterflies!  The dispersion of the Monarchs
> downhill for water and nectar was immense. We had to drive slowly to give them 
> plenty of maneuvering room to go around us.

Yes, but once again, wasn't it logging that created the road through the
forest which in turn created the path that the butterflies were using
to fly to water and nectar sources?  Here is a picture of monarchs following
a paved highway (created by logging) next to the Herrada colony downhill to 
water sources (muddy dirt roads).

Also didn't these water and nectar sources occur on disturbed ground (on roads,
roadsides, & on farmland) that was originally forested as we can see
in this picture
Thus, wasn't it logging that created the water and nectar habitats?

> To me, this is the way ecotourism should be done.  While you get to see the
> "neat stuff" you also directly help to mitigate the "bad stuff" that
> threatens the neat stuff. 

What "bad stuff" is really threatening the "neat stuff"?  Seems to me another
interpretation could be that the so called "bad stuff" is actually creating 
habitat for the "neat stuff".

Paul Cherubini


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