By Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com
Butterflies are in decline across the American West as climate change makes the region hotter and drier, reports Dino Grandoni for the Washington Post.
The new research, published last week in the journal Science, details winnowing butterfly populations across the majority of the 450 species evaluated by the researchers.
By combining decades of butterfly sighting data recorded by scientists and amateurs, the team found that the total number of butterflies observed west of the Rocky Mountains has fallen by 1.6 percent every year since 1977.
“You extrapolate it and it feels crazy but it’s consistent with the anecdotal ‘windshield effect’ where people aren’t spending time cleaning insects from their car windshields anymore,” Matt Forister, biologist at the University of Nevada and the study’s lead author, tells Oliver Milman of the Guardian. “Certainly many butterfly species are becoming so rare it’s hard for some people to see what were once widespread, common species.”
In particular, the iconic western monarch butterfly’s population has crashed to the tune of 99.9 percent, reports Liz Langley for National Geographic. But, per National Geographic, the declines have also pushed less famous species such as the Boisduval’s blue and the California dogface butterfly, California’s state insect, to the brink of extinction.