Climate-change and mass mortality events in overwintering monarch butterflies

Narayani Barve, Alvin J. Bonilla, Julia Brandes, J. Christopher Brown, Nathaniel Brunsell, Ferdouz V. Cochran, Rebecca J. Crosthwait, Jodi Gentry, Laci M. Gerhart, Trish Jackson, Anna J. Kern, Karen S. Oberhauser, Hannah L. Owens, A. Townsend Peterson, Alexis S. Reed, Jorge Soberón, Adam D. Sundberg, Linda M. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) have a unique yearly life cycle, in which successive generations breed and move northward from the southern USA in spring to the northern US and southern Canada by late summer; they overwinter in extremely restricted areas in central Mexico and along the California coast. Mexican overwintering populations have experienced significant mortality events recently, which have been hypothesized as increasing in frequency owing to climate change. Here, we test the hypothesis of climate-change causation of these mortality events, at least in part, finding significant local weather trends toward conditions lethal for monarch survival. We use ecological niche estimates and future climate projections to estimate future overwintering distributions; results anticipate dramatic reductions in suitability of present overwintering areas, and serious implications for local human economies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-824
Number of pages8
JournalRevista Mexicana de Biodiversidad
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Lethal temperature
  • Monarch butterfly
  • Mortality
  • Winter


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