Quantifying ecosystem service flows at multiple scales across the range of a long-distance migratory species

Darius J. Semmens, Jay E. Diffendorfer, Kenneth J. Bagstad, Ruscena Wiederholt, Karen Oberhauser, Leslie Ries, Brice X. Semmens, Joshua Goldstein, John Loomis, Wayne E. Thogmartin, Brady J. Mattsson, Laura López-Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Migratory species provide ecosystem goods and services throughout their annual cycles, often over long distances. Designing effective conservation solutions for migratory species requires knowledge of both species ecology and the socioeconomic context of their migrations. We present a framework built around the concept that migratory species act as carriers, delivering benefit flows to people throughout their annual cycle that are supported by the network of ecosystems upon which the species depend. We apply this framework to the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) migration of eastern North America by calculating their spatial subsidies. Spatial subsidies are the net ecosystem service flows throughout a species’ range and a quantitative measure of the spatial mismatch between the locations where people receive most benefits and the locations of habitats that most support the species. Results indicate cultural benefits provided by monarchs in the U.S. and Canada are subsidized by migration and overwintering habitat in Mexico. At a finer scale, throughout the monarch range, habitat in rural landscapes subsidizes urban residents. Understanding the spatial distribution of benefits derived from and ecological support provided to monarchs and other migratory species offers a promising means of understanding the costs and benefits associated with conservation across jurisdictional borders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-264
Number of pages10
JournalEcosystem Services
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the guest editor, three anonymous reviewers, and Karen Jenni for their comments on this manuscript. This work was conducted as part of the “Animal Migration and Spatial Subsidies: Establishing a Framework for Conservation Markets” working group supported by the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis, funded by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Additional funding came from the Land Change Science program at USGS. Any use of trade, product, or firm names are for descriptive purposes only and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Z. Ancona assisted with GIS analyses and J. Havens helped develop the figures. L. Ries was supported by National Science Foundation Grants no. DBI-1147049 and no. DBI-1052875 awarded to National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017


  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Monarch butterfly
  • Political ecology
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Spatial subsidies
  • Telecoupling


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