Modeling current and future potential wintering distributions of eastern North American monarch butterflies

Karen Oberhauser, A. Townsend Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Monarch butterflies overwinter in restricted areas in montane oyamel fir forests in central Mexico with specific microclimates that allow the butterflies to survive for up to 5 months. We use ecological niche modeling (ENM) to identify areas adequate for overwintering monarch colonies under both current and future climate scenarios. The ENM approach permits testing and validation of model predictivity, and yields quantitative, testable predictions regarding likely future climate change effects. Our models predicted monarch presence with a high degree of accuracy, and indicated that precipitation and diurnal temperature range were key environmental factors in making locations suitable for monarchs. When we projected monarch distribution onto future climate scenarios (Hadley Centre climate models), we found that conditions were likely to be inadequate across the entire current winter range, particularly owing to increased cool-weather precipitation that could cause increased mortality. This study applies ENM to understanding the seasonal dynamics of a migratory species under climate change, and uses ENM to identify key limiting environmental parameters in species' responses to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14063-14068
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - Nov 25 2003
Externally publishedYes


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