NC1205: MONARCH BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

NC1205: MONARCH BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION

Duration: 10/01/2017 to 09/30/2022

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

ISSUES

Declines in monarch butterfly populations over the past decade in North America has been documented (Jepsen et al., 2015; Brower et al. 2012).  Declines have been attributed to loss of overwintering forest habitat in Mexico as well as the loss of milkweed in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding habitat in the southern, central and northern United States.  Recent predictions indicate that the Great Plains and Midwest is already highly agriculturally cultivated and establishment of natural areas that may support monarch and wildlife breeding habitat will continue to decline (Sohl et al., 2012).


Importance: While the 2015/2016 overwintering adult populations improved somewhat as compared to 2011-15(http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/survey-suggests-migratory-monarchs-are-rebounding-with-a-long-road-ahead), the current population level of 4.0 hectares of occupied overwintering forest remains below the target of 6.0 hectares to support a resilient population (USG, 2014). In addition, a severe winter storm in March 2016 reduced by more than 50% the monarch populations in the overwintering grounds in Mexico. With the 20-year trend of overwintering levels at or near record lows, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) was petitioned in the summer of 2014 to list the monarch as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (USFWS, 2014a). The USFWS determined a status review for a potential listing was warranted and recently completed a public comment period (USFWS, 2014b). Research efforts over the next several years could provide a science-based, pre-listing conservation plan that would mitigate actions required in cooperating states by a USFWS ESA status review decision, which is scheduled for June 2019. A proactive approach to develop a conservation plan for the monarch butterfly could substantially benefit North Central landowners and also provide regional and national leadership.


Stakeholders: The Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife agencies, which is an organizatin of MAFWA is an organization of 13 state and 3 provincial fish and wildlife agencies (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan, www.mafwa.org). With support from the National Wildlife Federation and Pheasants Forever, MAFWA instigated regional monarch butterfly conservation planning efforts in 2015. The MAFWA held a monarch butterfly conservation workshop in October of 2015.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) hosted a Monarch and Wild Pollinator Summit in September 2016. The objective was to gather key conservation partners from across the state to initiate development of a statewide strategy to conserve and enhance habitat for the monarch butterfly and wild pollinators. The Summit’s steering committee included: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Bureau, National Wildlife Federation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan State University Extension, MSU Entomology Department, Michigan Pollinator Initiative and Grand Rapids Community College. The two-day Summit was attended by 75 individuals representing 32 organizations. MDNR is using this input to develop a statewide strategy for monarch and wild pollinator conservation that engages key stakeholders and contributes to meeting national goals. The Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative is a statewide coalition of public and private interests dedicated to conservation of the monarch butterfly and other pollinator species. The mission of the Collaborative is to increase and sustain habitat for monarch butterflies and pollinators through citizen involvement, and seek ways for partners, communities, and agencies to coordinate similar efforts (http://missouriansformonarchs.blogspot.com/). The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium was launched in February 2015 by the agricultural community in Iowa and is serving as a model approach to engaging stakeholders that could be expanded across other states. The Iowa Consortium is currently comprised of 35 member state-based organizations that include farmer, livestock and commodity and conservation organizations, federal agencies, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The goal of the Consortium is to enhance the monarch butterfly’s reproduction across the state by supporting the propagation of breeding habitat through research, education and direct action.

Current research indicates that expanded breeding habitat in rural landscapes in the United States, specifically the upper Midwest, will have a positive impact on stabilizing and enhancing monarch butterfly populations  (Flockhart et al., 2015). Efforts to enhance conservation of monarch butterflies and their habitat, primarily in gardens, urban and suburban green space, and highway right-of-ways, are being undertaken by numerous multi-partner organizations (e.g. Monarch Watch, 2015; Monarch Joint Venture, 2015) that include State and Federal Agencies and engagement by the agricultural community.  Current research, however, indicates that while breeding habitat in gardens and highway right of ways is important to maintain monarch populations, expanded breeding habitat in rural landscapes in the United States must engage underutilized areas to optimize space and resources and employ best practices, including selected host plants and their spatial deployment, that do not conflict with agricultural land use.

Research to enhance the scientific basis for monarch conservation is being actively pursued in the scientific community (e.g., Entomological Society of America symposium, Nov. 2014) and is a specific component of the U.S. Government’s pollination protection initiative released in June, 2014. The proposed project will help to coordinate these efforts and will provide a broad-based forum for collaboration and standardizing sampling and research protocols so that data can be aggregated beyond the local level.  Key habitat issues include selection of appropriate milkweed species and companion plants for high quality monarch habitat, determining spatial arrangements of milkweed patches, developing habitat establishment guidelines, and post-planting management of monarch habitat. Companion plantings of nectar-producing flowers and roosting sites used by monarch adults are also included in monarch habitat considerations; monarch habitat benefits other wildlife habitat including pollinators. In order to establish sufficient monarch habitat in the agriculturally intensive upper Midwest, the agricultural community must be engaged. Research and extension efforts with the agricultural community and landowners throughout the region can support a proactive, science-based conservation program that would significantly enhance North American recovery of the monarch. This project will provide science-based guidelines for establishing and maintaining monarch habitat in a variety of rural landscapes and consider the impact of agricultural production practices.

Specific issues the proposed group would address include 1) Cost-effective methods to establish and maintain milkweeds and companion plants in rural, suburban and urban landscapes, proposed milkweed (Asclepias) species and monarch seed mixes for monarch population enhancement and adaptation for North Central states; 2) Optimal monarch habitat patch characteristics and landscape spatial arrangements to maintain and promote larval productivity and population viability; a population modeling framework will establish monarch and milkweed baseline populations; evaluation of monarch breeding, forage and roosting habitat characteristics, and spatial arrangement of patches; and 3) Consistent survey and sampling protocols to monitor larval and adult monarch populations will inform monarch conservation and habitat restoration efforts; 4) Determine socio-economic constraints and opportunities to engage participation in conservation activities; 5) Extend research results through a variety of outreach activities.  Mission-driven collaboration across the upper Midwest summer breeding zone of the monarch butterfly will coordinate collective resources and expertise and ensure conservation efforts tailored to local landscapes can be aggregated to state, region and national scales to achieve a scientifically-robust approach for achieving monarch population recovery.  Related extension and outreach activities will ensure the distribution of practical, science-based information on conservation approaches in agricultural landscapes.



JUSTIFICATION


Technical Feasibility:
 A significant knowledge gap concerns the relationship between monarch breeding success, milkweed density and species composition, adult foraging and roosting habitat patches, and their spatial distribution across urban, suburban and rural landscapes. Research led by academic programs and  USDA-ARS has supported science-based habitat management options (e.g., Asbjornsen et al., 2013; Hirsh et al, 2013; Prasifka et al. 2006;Tomers et al. 2009) targeting other species.  Additional research is needed to better understand the specific relationship of monarch breeding success to habitat requirements for larval development as well as adult nectar forage and roosting habitat across the breeding and migration zone.  Research is also needed on best management practices for establishing and maintaining, breeding habitat that is consistent with weed management needs in row crop production agriculture. 


Multistate Advantage:
The proposed project will coordinate efforts, fostering communication and collaboration among investigators representing several disciplines. Coordination will ensure that efforts build on existing knowledge and avoid duplication of effort. Approaches to selecting eco-zone specific plant species mixes, establishing, and maintaining habitat will require adaptations to soil type, climate, rainfall patterns, and other environmental factors; successful approaches or barriers that are shared and discussed among project members will bring more expertise to the table and inform the scientific community and stakeholders throughout the region.  Collaborations among project participants can be a point of contact for agencies and strengthen funding proposals.


Impacts: Ultimately, this project will support the development, outreach delivery, and implementation of monarch butterfly conservation at multiple state, regional and national levels.  The project and sharing of research efforts provides a model for Land Grant and partner institutions across the monarch breeding zone in the North Central states. This approach may also provide a model for other systems that span a large geographic area and multiple disciplines.

The Rapid Response project had five meetings (formal and informal) of NC507 that include two teleconferences and three meetings of interested participants at North Central Branch of the Entomological Society of America (Manhattan, KS and Cleveland, Ohio), and at the joint meetings of the Entomological Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America (Minneapolis, MN).  These meetings have informed participants of state-based activities and regional associated meetings of pollinator groups and the Right-of-Way meetings.  As a result of these extended discussions a grant proposal was submitted to USDA,AFRI, New Frontiers in Pollinator Health Program led by Dr. Sarah Zuckoff in July 2016.

Related, Current and Previous Work

The declines in monarch populations east of the Rocky Mountains have been attributed to loss of overwintering forest habitat in Mexico as well as the loss of milkweed in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding habitat in the southern, central and northern United States. Efforts to enhance conservation of monarch butterflies and their habitat, primarily in gardens, urban and suburban greenspace, and highway right-of-ways, are being undertaken by numerous multi-partner organizations (e.g. Monarch Watch, 2016; Monarch Joint Venture, 2016). Research to enhance the scientific basis for monarch conservation is being actively pursued in the scientific community and is a specific component of the U.S. Government’s pollinator research action plan (USG, 2015b). Consistent with the Federal initiative, USFWS announced a save the monarch campaign (USFWS, 2015b). The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, in concert with the USFWS, launched a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/releases/?cid=nrcseprd414821).

Current research indicates that while breeding habitat in gardens, urban and suburban greenspace, and highway right-of-ways is important to maintain monarch populations, expanded breeding habitat in rural landscapes in the United States will have the greatest positive impact on stabilizing and enhancing monarch butterfly populations (Flockhart et al., 2015; Oberhauser et al., 2016), which is predominately owned by private, non-Federal landowners, and more specifically farmers and ranchers. However, to date engagement by the agricultural community has been limited. Focused, applied research will provide the parameters and guidelines needed for establishing and maintaining monarch habitat and support a proactive, science-based conservation program that will significantly enhance North American recovery of the monarch while maintaining productive agriculture and livestock production. Such a conservation program will, at a minimum, require robust and coordinated efforts within and across the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin (USFWS, 2015a). Failure to develop and implement a credible, voluntary monarch conservation program may result in the Federal listing of the species, which would create significant regulatory and management burdens for farmers and livestock producers.

Related, current and previous work is also summarized under Comments for each corresponding Objective below.

Objectives

  1. DEVELOP COST-EFFECTIVE METHODS TO ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN HABITAT PATCHES THAT INCLUDE MILKWEED, NECTAR SOURCES, AND COMPANION PLANTS THAT ARE GEOGRAPHICALLY APPROPRIATE AND OFFER SEASON LONG BENEFITS FOR A VARIETY OF ARTHROPOD SPECIES.
    Comments: Establishing and maintaining habitat patches. Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed species exclusively as larval host plants, while flowering forbs provide nectar sources for adults. Research is needed on best management and cost-effective practices for establishing and supporting breeding habitat that is consistent with weed management needs in row crop production agriculture. A number of private and public sector organizations, including USFWS and NRCS, have or are developing seed mixes and restoration protocols for milkweed habitat across the North Central states and are active in surveys of established sites to assess milkweed and forb densities and diversity (e.g.; http://nctc.fws.gov/topic/online-training/webinars/monarch-conservation.html; http://www.xerces.org/milkweeds-a-conservation-practitioners-guide/). Coordinated research efforts are needed to adapt existing pollinator seed mixes for larval and adult monarchs that are geographically relevant across varying landscapes to assess agronomic variables that influence germination, propagation, succession and persistence of forage and host plants. Milkweed seeds are known to have poor emergence, even after proper stratification, due to soil- or seed-borne pathogens that attack seeds and seedlings, which reduces success in establishing habitat (Borders et al., 2014). The potential incorporation of adapted milkweed species in state, federal, and non-governmental agencies with conservation practices are focused on improved wildlife habitat, pollinator habitat, biodiversity, water, nutrient and carbon cycling, while minimizing weed development (e.g., Asbjornsen et al., 2013; Hirsh et al. 2013; Prasifka et al., 2006; Tomer et al., 2009), is an example of an existing knowledge base to support this research area.
  2. DETERMINE OPTIMAL BREEDING HABITAT PATCH CHARACTERISTICS AND LANDSCAPE SPATIAL ARRANGEMENTS TO MAINTAIN AND PROMOTE MONARCH POPULATION VIABILITY AND DEVELOP A MODEL-BASED DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEM TO GUIDE CONSERVATION RECOMMENDATIONS ACROSS THE EASTERN MONARCH BUTTERFLY RANGE.
    Comments: Determining optimal breeding habitat characterizations and spatial arrangements. Reducing uncertainty in relating habitat plant composition, milkweed spatial arrangement, habitat continuity and land use to responses of monarch butterfly populations will enhance the means to establish robust and geographically relevant conservation plans in a cost-effective manner. Research is needed to advance knowledge of known resident milkweed species, monarch species preference and habitat patch size, composition, and spatial arrangements (e.g., Zalucki et al. 2001a; Zalucki and Lammers, 2010; Zalucki et al., 2002; Zalucki et. al., 2016) in relationship to monarch breeding success (e.g., Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013). High rates of egg/larval mortality (primarily predation) that frequently exceed 90% in grassland habitats (Prysby 2004, Nail et al., 2015) need to be understood in comparison to mortality in crop habitats. Optimum milkweed stand density, plot size, and distribution to support monarch life stages across a diverse landscape are needed to support a viable monarch population. Since habitat patches will be established in a variety of North Central landscapes associated with row crop production, exposure of monarch larvae and adults to insecticides through spray drift and/or consumption of exposed milkweed leaves are likely. Impact of herbicide applications on adjacent milkweed-containing habitat is another concern. The potential risk of these exposures at the patch and landscape scale are unknown due to the lack of monarch-specific toxicology and milkweed susceptibility information. Based on data generated through laboratory and field studies outlined above, a prototype of a spatially-explicit population model has been developed to elucidate emergent properties of monarch behavior in complex landscapes (Grant et al., 2016). Models of this nature can be used to evaluate monarch productivity based on varying milkweed/companion plant species combinations, patch sizes and spatial arrangements in rural, urban and suburban landscapes. Experimental data on monarch utilization of milkweed in patches with varying host plant species available (e.g., Pocius et al., 2015, 2016), with varying density of nectar plants (e.g., Blader et al., 2015, 2016) and in the context of potential impacts of pesticide exposure (e.g., Krishnan et al., 2016) will also contribute to model development and evaluation of predictions.
  3. ESTABLISH SURVEY AND SAMPLING PROTOCOLS THAT CAN BE APPLIED REGION-WIDE TO EVALUATE BREEDING HABITAT QUALITY, MONARCH HABITAT UTILIZATION, AND LIFE STAGE ASSESSMENT FOR A REGION-WIDE MONARCH LIFE CYCLE BASELINE.
    Comments: Survey and sampling protocols to monitor habitat and larval and adult monarch populations. Breeding habitat and monarch surveys will be needed throughout the summer breeding range to assess habitat establishment and status, monarch population density, and environmental adaptations. Citizen science records have been valuable in large spatial scale evaluation of monarch population dynamics (e.g., Ries et al., 2015; Inamine et al., 2016). Many organizations, including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the USFWS, the USDA NRCS, and the private sector have begun sponsoring efforts to expand and augment milkweed populations to increase the breeding resource base for monarch butterflies. A major challenge to this undertaking is uncertainty in the current baseline of established milkweed habitat and the associated methods to reliably assess status and trends of milkweed habitat as conservation programs are implemented within and across the United States. While protocols for evaluating monarch egg and larval life stages are well established, probability-based survey designs have not been established to provide unbiased survey data with specified level of confidence to assess status and trends of eggs and larvae within and across states. Research in this area would dovetail with U.S. Geological Survey and USFWS efforts that are being initiated to provide breeding population assessments to complement the annual survey of the overwintering monarch population.
  4. RESEARCH RESULTS WILL BE COMMUNICATED TO STAKEHOLDERS THROUGH A VARIETY OF EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH ACTIVITIES.
    Comments: Communicating research results to the scientific community will be accomplished through participation and presentations at state, regional, and national meetings and publications. Communicating research results to cooperators and local participants will be accomplished through workshops, field days, and short video presentations that will be made available through the internet. Research results will include state and regional based milkweed species recommendations and guidelines for establishing milkweed/pollinator habitat in a variety of habitats. Information has been developed for certain locales, but the workgroup will enable sharing across region and provide broad-based recommendations based on sharing information. Regional workshops and/or presentations at regional venues will provide consistent message and guidelines for those who wish to add milkweed habitat.
  5. DETERMINE THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONSTRAINTS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRIVATE LANDOWNERS TO ENGAGE IN CONSERVATION PRACTICES THAT MAINTAIN MONARCH BREEDING HABITAT INCLUDING MICRO- AND MACRO-LEVEL SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS FOR BOTH INDIVIDUALS AND COMMUNITIES.
    Comments: Communicating research results to the scientific community will be accomplished through participation and presentations at state, regional, and national meetings and publications. Communicating research results to cooperators and local participants will be accomplished through workshops, field days, and short video presentations that will be made available through the internet. Research results will include state and regional based milkweed species recommendations and guidelines for establishing milkweed/pollinator habitat in a variety of habitats. Information has been developed for certain locales, but the workgroup will enable sharing across region and provide broad-based recommendations based on sharing information. Regional workshops and/or presentations at regional venues will provide consistent message and guidelines for those who wish to add milkweed habitat.

Methods


Objective 1: Monarch habitat propagation: Cost-effective methods to establish and maintain milkweeds and companion plants in rural landscapes

Breeding habitat seed mixes will be formulated that emphasize milkweed (Asclepias) species and a continuous supply of adult nectar sources with an emphasis on prairie, wetland, and meadow blends suitable to a state’s/region’s landscapes. While several state-based efforts have been made to develop seed mixes, planting date and management, a coordinated, regional approach will be used to develop best management practices for monarch habitat establishment that can be used region-wide. Specifically, habitat establishment and maintenance practices will address scenarios for grass dominated areas on farms and livestock operations as well as riparian zones on farms, including sites where water quality practices are being implemented (e.g., saturated buffers, bioreactors, and wetlands). Methods for replacing existing grass dominated ground cover with breeding habitat will be evaluated as well as methods for augmenting sites with mini-habitat patches or use of inter-seeding. These sites will require working closely with agricultural producers and addressing potential impacts on production including weed control, habitat management, and impacts of spray drift into habitat areas. Observations will be made on plant stand composition, flowering dates, predator communities and survival of monarch life stages throughout the growing season. Subsequent years will provide information on persistence, proliferation, and on shifting predator communities and impacts on monarch survival.


Objective 2: Monarch population dynamics: Determining optimal breeding habitat patch characteristics and spatial arrangements to maintain and promote population viability

Milkweed (Asclepias) species and selected forbs in demonstration plots across the participating institutions and states will be evaluated for monarch utilization. Laboratory studies can be used to provide additional information on monarch larvae plant species’ performance. Methods to provide information on plant-monarch species interactions will include measurements of stem length, number of leaves, longest leaf, tallest plant, and shortest plant within each oviposition trial; and daily number of eggs per plant (Leventhal 2003, Ladner and Altizer 2005). Feeding assays will be conducted to determine host plant quality on larval growth and survival using both leaf material and whole plants (Zalucki and Malcolm 1999, Zalucki et al. 2001a, Zalucki et al. 2001b, Leventhal 2003, Ladner and Altizer 2005, Yeargan and Allard 2005, Petschenka and Agrawal 2015). Results of these studies will help inform milkweed species selection for monarch breeding habitat and can be adapted or applied to other agro ecosystem settings across the North Central region (see Objective 1).

Studies at multiple locations will provide empirical data on how adult monarchs utilize different habitat/patch characteristics, including their spatial arrangement in agricultural landscapes. Milkweed and forage plants will be evaluated in a variety of arrangements and densities. Habitat fragments and connectivity patterns will be experimentally evaluated to relate habitat characteristics to monarch habitat utilization, egg laying behavior and rates, as well as larval survival and growth rates. Adult, female monarch habitat search behavior and utilization of isolated patches and milkweed stems can be addressed using radio-telemetry (Fisher, Adelman, and Bradbury et al., unpublished data) and/or genetic markers providing detailed habitat utilization data. (Fisher et al., 2016).

Since habitat patches will be established in landscapes associated with row crop production, exposure of monarch larvae and adults to insecticide application through spray drift and/or consumption of exposed milkweed leaves is likely. Herbicide exposure through soil and foliar application could also impact milkweed growth and indirectly impact monarch productivity. The potential risk of these exposures at the patch and landscape scale are unknown due to the lack of milkweed and monarch-specific toxicology information. Research will determine acute and chronic effects of a representative suite of insecticide modes of action through oral consumption and spray/dust drift and the extent to which likely exposures in the field will depress survival, growth or reproduction rates. Studies on toxicity mechanisms and rates/routes of detoxification will inform monarch sensitivity as compared to target pests. Sublethal herbicide exposures could affect both the quantity and quality of milkweed vegetation found in and adjacent to crop fields. Sublethal effects of representative herbicides on common milkweed will be determined and the suitability of milkweed damaged by herbicides for monarch oviposition and larvae development will be assessed. The data from these studies will be incorporated in landscape-scale population models.

Modeling spatially-explicit habitat patch characteristics and spatial arrangements to maintain and promote population viability will integrate data described above. Spatially-explicit population models will be developed to evaluate monarch productivity based on varying milkweed/companion plant species combinations, patch sizes and spatial arrangements in rural, urban and suburban landscapes. Data from the above efforts in this objective will contribute to model development and evaluate predictions. An agent-based, spatially-explicit model of monarch butterfly movement and egg-laying in an Iowa landscape (Tyler et al., 2016; adapted from Zalucki et al., 2016) could serve as a starting point for developing a coordinated and linked modeling system within and across the states. Results of model evaluation will inform research to address areas of uncertainties; e.g., adult monarch habitat search behavior and utilization of isolated patches.


Objective 3: Monitoring: Survey and sampling protocols to monitor milkweed and larval and adult monarch populations

Breeding habitat and monarch surveys will be needed to assess habitat establishment and status, monarch population density, and environmental adaptations.

Survey design options and sampling protocols to quantify milkweed and companion plant populations in the participating states will be coordinated to facilitate state- and region-based reporting. Evaluation of sampling protocols at selected sites will be informed by those being currently used (e.g., Hartlzer and Buhler, 2000; Hartzler, 2010; Iowa Department of Natural Resources - Multiple Species Inventory and Monitoring (MSIM) program (http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/WildlifeStewardship/NonGameWildlife/DiversityProjects/MSIM.aspx), and by those being evaluated in a current project conducted by the USGS, the University of Minnesota and Oklahoma State University, who are using a related transect procedure to sample randomly selected roadsides. Efforts associated with this objective will include collaboration with USGS to further ground truth sampling areas chosen through the generalized random-tessellation stratified algorithm being developed by USGS staff.


Objective 4: Research results will be provided through a variety of educational outreach activities.

Communicating research results to the scientific community will be accomplished through participation and presentations at state, regional, and national meetings and publications. Communicating research results to cooperators and local participants will be accomplished through workshops, field days, and short video presentations that will be made available through the internet. Research results will include state and regional based milkweed species recommendations and guidelines for establishing milkweed/pollinator habitat in a variety of habitats. Information has been developed for certain locales, but the workgroup will enable sharing across region and provide broad-based recommendations based on sharing information. Regional workshops and/or presentations at regional venues will provide consistent message and guidelines for those who wish to add milkweed habitat.


Objective 5: Determine the socio-economic constraints and opportunity for private landowners to engage in conservation practices that maintain monarch breeding habitat. This will include understanding micro- and macro- level socio-economic factors at both the individual and community level.

Recent sociological research examines how the monarch butterfly has become an important symbol for mobilizing social networks in support not only of butterfly habitat, but also for a variety of other conservation projects (Gustafsson et al. 2015). An important research question for this project will be to determine whether or not farm landowners have been incorporated into these social networks. Relatedly, farm landowners may have different perspectives on the types of support they would need to encourage their development and maintenance of habitat for monarch butterflies. This would include input on whether and how farm landowners might cooperate broadly on developing habitat corridors. This project would build upon the work of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life poll be extending the research to other states where developing monarch habitat will be crucial as well as developing measuring instruments to gauge the full range of farm landowners perspectives on the development of monarch butterfly habitat.

The project has attracted a variety of individuals that offer expertise in agricultural systems (Ratcliffe, Blodgett, Zukoff, Hellmich), broad ecosystem benefits that include pollinators and other beneficial organisms (Landis, Kaplan, Debinski, Pleasants, Hellmich, Delaney, Anderson), toxicological considerations of placing monarch/beneficial habitat in an agricultural landscape (Bradbury Velez-Arango, Anderson, Mota-Sanchez), economic and sociological considerations concerning adoption (Jussaume, Hurley), weed management (Hartzler), survey techniques based on IPM and ecological methodology (Debinski, Pleasants, Weissling, Ratcliffe, Landis), and extension delivery (Zukoff, Blodgett, Hartzler, Ratcliffe, Weissling) although all participants participate in outreach activities to some extent. 

Breeding habitat and monarch surveys will be needed throughout the summer breeding range to assess habitat establishment, management efficacy, persistence and monarch population density and response.  Efforts include developing a baseline of established milkweed-containing monarch habitat and methods to reliably assess status and trends of milkweed persistence.  Information generated and shared will support individual state efforts but the project will enable implementation at a larger scale.

Extension communication of research results is on on-going effort that involves all the project personnel either through extension appointments/expectations or through general outreach expectations.  Communication takes the form of presentations to professional audiences, state, regional, and national audiences and through written publications. Research results will include state and regionally appropriate milkweed and plant species recommendations and guidelines for establishing milkweed/pollinator habitat in a variety of habitats. Participants with extension appointments include Ratcliffe, Zukoff, Blodgett, Hartzler, Weissling.

Measurement of Progress and Results

Outputs

  • HABITAT Comments: Develop guidelines for establishment and maintaining monarch butterfly habitat that consider milkweed species selection and companion plants that are geographically appropriate. Develop data on larval survival, milkweed growth and development, and adult oviposition preference for milkweed species. Identify milkweed species and companion plants by state and region to focus further research efforts; this knowledge will inform seed mix recommendations. Conduct laboratory, greenhouse and field experiments including monarch larvae feeding trials, oviposition preference, larval abundance, larval success, and adult preference. Conduct field research on milkweed species persistence, growth habit and characteristics.
  • MODELING Comments: Develop an understanding of optimum monarch habitat including patch size, utilization, movement, and survival to contribute to a spatially-explicit model of monarch butterfly movement. This knowledge will include monarch butterfly preference for plant density, spatial arrangement, patch size and patch connectivity. Information will be developed on potential impacts of agricultural production practices on monarch habitat including insecticide and herbicide spray drift impacts and toxicological implications including Evaluate risk of soil or foliar pesticide application to monarch butterfly and breeding habitat from agricultural production. Develop a model of habitat patch characteristics, spatial arrangements and impacts on monarch butterfly growth and development success. This model will enable the evaluation of a broad range of landscape characteristics and could be the basis of state- and regional- decision-support systems for selecting and evaluating options for habitat siting.
  • MONITORING Comments: Develop standard survey and sampling protocols to quantify milkweed and companion plant as well as monarch larval and adult abundance and seasonal occurrence. Using random and stratified transect delineation, sampling protocols will allow unbiased methodologies that can be used to assess performance of implemented conservation programs at the state or regional level.
  • OUTREACH Comments: Communicating research results to cooperators and local participants will be accomplished through workshops, field days, and short video presentations.
  • SOCIO-ECONOMIC Comments: Develop information on community-based socio-economic costs and benefits of establishing monarch conservation habitat.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • HABITAT: Milkweed (Asclepias) species and monarch seed mixes will be evaluated by each state, aggregated by region, and information will be summarized on habitat for monarch breeding, larval growth and development and adult foraging for a variety of soil types and land use scenarios across crop and livestock production operations in the participating states.
  • MODELING: A modeling framework will be developed to support spatially-explicit options for establishing monarch breeding and foraging habitat characteristics in participating states. Model forecasts and a habitat management decision-support system will be developed to integrate and aggregate nested monarch models and conservation options across local, state, regional and national scales.
  • MONITORING: Sampling designs and protocols will be developed to support annual surveys of milkweed species occurrence, plant density, as well as monarch larval and adult populations. Seasonal occurrence will provide baseline data and enable habitat restoration efforts to be evaluated. The effort will include developing approaches to integrate citizen-based surveys (e.g., Monarch Joint Venture, 2016) with surveys undertaken by USGS and state-based conservation programs.
  • OUTREACH Voluntary monarch conservation efforts will be implemented in spring and summer breeding zones to support U.S. goal of 225 million overwintering monarchs by 2020.

Milestones

(2017): Please see Attachments.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

To stimulate adoption of innovative approaches to monarch habitat management, a combination of farmer-to-farmer field days, videos, and publications, culminating in presentations of the results of this project in state-based capstone events will be considered. A case study will be filmed and available as a short video. Recommendations would be tailored regionally with respect to types of farms and their production enterprises. Research and extension faculty will attend and share results from field study locations and from demonstration plots at the Land Grant research and demonstration farms.

Results of this project will be integrated with education delivery that will inform milkweed and companion species selection and management practices for farmers and livestock producers. Through demonstration of cost-effective methods to augment or replace existing vegetation, the project will establish approaches that are sensitive to conservation goals of reducing soil erosion, while also enhancing monarch recovery and pollinator biodiversity. Extending project results through field days, state-based conservation strategies and other venues will support science-based recommendations for establishing and maintaining monarch/pollinator habitat in the participating states.

Organization/Governance

The group will use a standard form of governance including a small executive committee consisting of a chair, chair-elect, and recorder each with two-year term. Decision making will be based on simple majority by votes as needed. Sub-committees will be established based on the group’s need.

Literature Cited


Asbjornsen H., Hernandez-Santana, V., Bayala, J. and Chen J. 2012. Targeting perennial vegetation in agricultural landscapes for enhancing ecosystem services. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 29:101-125.


Blader et al., 2016. Does density of host plant (Asclepias spp.) and surrounding habitat influence monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) oviposition? Presentation at International Congress of Entomology, Orlando, FL.


Blader, T., Hellmich, R., Blodgett, S., Bradbury, S., Moranz, R., Pleasants, J., and Debinski, D. 2015. Does density of host plant (Asclepias syriaca) influence monarch butterfly (Danaus plexxipus) ovipostion? Poster session presented at the Entomology Society of America National Conference, Minneapolis, MN.


Borders, B. and Lee-Mäder, E. Milkweeds. 2014. A Conservation Practioner’s Guide. Plant Ecology, Seed Production Methods, and Habitat Restoration Opportunities. www.xerces.org


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AR, CA, DE, IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, NE

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