MEXICO CITY — Storms earlier this year blew down more than a hundred acres of forests where migrating monarch butterflies spend the winter in central Mexico, killing more than 7 percent of the monarchs, experts reported Tuesday.
The Associated Press reported that rain, cold and high winds from the storms caused the loss of 133 acres (54 hectares) of pine and fir trees in the forests west of Mexico City, more than four times the amount lost to illegal logging this year. It was the biggest storm-related loss since the winter of 2009-10, when unusually heavy rainstorms and mudslides caused the destruction of 262 acres (106 hectares) of trees.
This year’s storm also appears to have frozen or killed about 6.2 million butterflies, almost 7.4 percent of the estimated 84 million butterflies that wintered in Mexico, said Alejandro Del Mazo, the attorney general for environmental protection.
Two big storm losses within five years may suggest changes in the climatic conditions that have allowed the survival of patches of mountaintop forests. An additional 16 acres (6.5 hectares) of trees were lost to drought this year.
“This points up just how fragile these forests are, and how fragile the monarchs are, and it makes clear the importance of reforestation efforts,” said Omar Vidal, director of the conservation group World Wildlife Fund Mexico, which carried out the forest survey along with experts from Mexico’s National Autonomous University and the government.
The monarchs depend on finding relatively well-preserved forests, where millions of the orange-and-black butterflies hang in clumps from the boughs. The trees, and the clumping, help protect the butterflies from cold rains and steep drops in temperature.
That is why illegal logging in the 33,484-acre (13,551-hectare) nucleus of the reserve is so damaging. Conservationists have tried to convince the largely impoverished farm and mountain communities which actually own most of the land that the forest is worth more to them in terms of tourism when left standing instead of being cut down.
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