Conservation Ecology: Monarchs (etc.), Ecological Niches & Climate

MexicoDoug at MexicoDoug at
Thu Nov 13 12:36:55 EST 2003

Three part message:
1. Thanks to Dr. Chip Taylor for raw information
2. Observations on the interpretation of the PNAS paper original source 
causing Paul's comments
3. Paul's comments on GMO Certification
4. The final paragraph of the PNAS paper.

Thanks to Chip Taylor for sending me a digital reprint of the PNAS article, 
and answering a few questions I had.  It is a well written paper dealing with a 
complex situation typical of the questions facing ecology, the section under 
which it appeared in PNAS.  The real focus of the article seems to be in the 
prediction of ecological niches of the Monarch, and how this can help in 
conservation efforts...and that seems to have been done remarkably well according to 
the discussion of results by authors Drs. Oberhauser and Peterson.  The 
climate model has assumptions that will no doubt be verified over time by 
researchers, and how nice it is that we now have a published model to act as a starting 
point.  It is never meant to be more than an exploratory study.  If the 
volley of Press-Paul make more out of it than that, I guess some like to be 
dramatic.  Interpretations aside, the authors deserve more, they have set a standard 
and the PNAS, Nature, and 100 more journals are waiting for your original 
research Paul.  You seem to have a wealth of knowledge squirreled away.  What not 
do something lasting with it.  Yes why not?????  No need to muck around in the 
discussions group politics when peer reviewed credibility is well within your 
grasp (though the peer reviewed product will usually be improved).  Like, 
just because I will eat most GM foods without worry doesn't mean Karen needs to 
Certify them as "GM Safe" for US population consumption.  And if the farmers 
didn't plant them, instead sticking with the traditional crop, market pricing 
would adjust.  The only losers would be the high risk tending companies in the 
manufacture of systems supporting the new, higher yielding crop, and consumers 
paying, perhaps 2% more for the partial product, which may be a fear premium, 
or an insurance policy, depending on who you ask.

Re: Oberhauser/Peterson PNAS article:

* Comments regarding the flexibility of the Monarchs to adapt are throughout 
the article.
* 1,870 species' niches were studied in an article in Nature last year - this 
work builds upon that
* The authors believe that their methodology is helpful in locating more 
possible Monarch populations
* The authors believe that locating Monarch population will benefit 
conservation efforts.
* The authors point out that increase in precipitation will cause more 
frequent freezes where mortality is great.

The article concludes:
"Monarchs do not appear to be using all habitable areas even within 50 km of 
known overwintering colonies. It is possible that the benefits of very dense 
aggregations means that only a subset of potential habitat will be used, 
although the frequent discovery of new colonies (61) suggests that more monarch 
overwintering areas remain to be discovered. Certainly, areas of suitable 
conditions (Fig. 1) would be excellent candidates for inspection. Effective long-term 
conservation, although appearing more complex even than previously 
appreciated, will depend on effective detection and monitoring of monarch overwintering 

Best butterflying.
Doug Dawn
Monterrery, Mexico
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