How reforestation protects the monarch butterfly and supports local communities
About 125 km outside Mexico City, a colorful visitor arrives every autumn in the forested mountains, turning the treetops a beautiful shade of orange. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve becomes a refuge for the iconic species, hosting 70 percent of the monarch population at once. That’s hundreds of millions of butterflies!
The monarch arrives from Canada and the US as part of their 8-month migration. It’s a mystery as to how the butterflies find their way back to Mexico each year, but we do know the Reserve is critical to their survival. Unfortunately, due to past illegal logging and wildfires, the area requires extensive restoration.
Building on Land Life Company’s continued effort to help the Reserve, we partnered with Arbor Day Foundation to restore more of its degraded land through reforestation and community engagement. The planting is supported by L’Oreal and International Paper; and we worked in coordination with CONAFOR (Mexican Ministry of Forestry), CONANP (Ministry of Protected Natural Areas) and the World Wildlife Fund to make this initiative possible.
As a result, over 21,660 additional trees were planted in two different locations last July that will revitalize the butterfly’s habitat.
In addition to reforesting and restoring the ecosystem of the monarch butterfly, there is another benefit of our efforts in Mexico. By working directly with the surrounding communities, we are able to contribute to the local economy and also ensure the protection of the plantings.
The reforestation projects also benefit residents in terms of clean water, as the Reserve feeds 23 springs, 8 dams and numerous bodies of water, playing a critical role in supplying water to millions of people in Mexico City, Toluca and other cities. In addition to the ecological significance, the area’s exceptional aesthetic importance led to its declaration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
Planting site: Las Palmas property, ejido Concepción del Monte
The first planting took place on 11 hectares in Las Palmes, where a fire occurred 20 years ago permanently altering the landscape. The forest still has not recovered from the devastation. At Land Life Company we only plant where nature is unable to recover in a beneficial timeframe, so this site matches our experience and knowledge perfectly. Our team worked together with local farmers to plant 15,000 oyameles. These high latitude conifer forests are made up of large swaths of the same species, justifying the planting of a monoculture instead of a variety of species like we normally do.
“Restoring the Las Palmas site has multiple benefits. It ultimately means protecting not only the monarch butterfly, but the whole ecosystem and the various species that inhabit,” said Artemio Montesinos, Land Life Company project manager.
Planting site: San Juan property, ejido San Juan Xoconusco
At the second location in San Juan, we planted two types of pine, including 5,000 Pinus pseudostrobus and 1,666 Pinus devoniana, on 5 hectares of land. Similar to the other location, this site had not recovered from forest fires and was in urgent need of restoration. Due to the degradation, there was very little vegetation, resulting in flooding, soil erosion and loss of filtration function. The newly planted trees will prevent these issues from happening in the future.
“The extra highlight of this effort was the level of community engagement and enthusiasm from people of all ages,” said Montesinos. “They really made an effort to help us finish the planting in optimal weather conditions.”
Reforestation projects like these are a necessity for the survival of the monarch butterfly, but the importance to the local residents is invaluable as well. We will continue to closely monitor and collect extensive data on both planting locations with our monitoring app and drones, which allow us to measure the survival rate and vigor of the trees.