Research Topic

North American Monarch Butterfly Ecology and Conservation

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About this Research Topic

Monarch butterflies—an iconic flagship species for grassland ecosystems and pollinator conservation-- are widespread, yet both the eastern North American and western US populations have declined. In response, academic and government scientists, managers, and conservation organizations from MX, USA, and CAN ...

Monarch butterflies—an iconic flagship species for grassland ecosystems and pollinator conservation-- are widespread, yet both the eastern North American and western US populations have declined. In response, academic and government scientists, managers, and conservation organizations from MX, USA, and CAN formed the Trinational Monarch Conservation Science Partnership (MCSP), which identifies, performs, and translates science for Monarch conservation. This Frontiers Research Topic will utilize a research meeting (late 2018/ early 2019) as the basis for contributions. The meeting will coalesce the larger monarch science community, including MCSP scientists, to report current research results and conservation activities for this imperiled species.

Science topics associated with monarch biology and conservation are broad --a 2017 conservation plan by the Monarch Joint Venture lists 21. The FRT editors will focus a broad list of potential contributions into a succinct group of papers showing both excellent science and its ties to applied conservation.

The Research Topic will include an overview summarizing the ongoing scientific and conservation activity on monarchs in North America. This will include a description of the science partnership, highlighting an innovative collaborative model for strategic conservation science, and introduce themes for the Research Topic. Research themes with the highest relevance to North American monarch conservation will structure the FRT, with two to three papers in each. Themes and possible paper topics are listed below.

Population biology and monitoring: Isotope analyses to understand regional contributions from the US and Canada to the overwintering population in MX; analyses of tagging information to understand migration patterns and factors affecting successful migration; analysis of pilot monitoring activities of monarchs and monarch habitat; the use of ground-based LIDAR to count overwintering monarchs; climate change impacts on monarch population viability; recovery planning for Monarchs.
Overwintering biology and habitat: Updated analyses of Oyamel Fir forest conservation and change in the overwintering grounds in MX; status, trends, threats, and conservation of overwintering habitats in California; factors affecting overwintering survival in both MX and CA.

Breeding and migration habitat: Identification and modelling of western monarch habitat and migration pathways; threats and land cover change in breeding and migration habitat; updated findings on milkweed distributions in the southern US and Canada and their changes through time; breeding activity in MX during overwintering and early spring northward migration; synthesis of habitat restoration approaches in rural and urban landscapes; nectar resource mapping, phenology, gap analysis, and restoration approaches; monarch physiology, lipid formation, and its relationship to nectar resources; monarch habitat quality at different scales; multi-species benefits of monarch habitat restoration; computer simulations of northward migration, breeding and optimal landscape design in agricultural-dominated landscapes; analyses of milkweed restoration potential in large cities and other urban areas.

Other threats: New analyses of OE monarch parasite’s spatial-temporal patterns; monarch exposure to pesticides, pesticide toxicity and its impacts on survival and reproduction; the role of exotic milkweeds on breeding, migration, and populations; climate change impacts on monarchs and their habitat, genetic assessment of migration behavior and evolutionary implications of catastrophic overwintering population loss.


Keywords: Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, conservation, migration, population ecology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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