Many of the environmental problems we face share a central problem: scale. How do we motivate and organize conservation at the pace and scale necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes? For species like the monarch butterfly, which have distinct needs throughout their range and lifecycle, the scale of conservation action required can seem overwhelming. Preservation of the monarch butterfly’s annual migration will require multi-national collaboration at an almost unprecedented scale. Well-designed environmental metrics can serve as the backbone of this collective effort, and can support restoration and recovery efforts for other imperiled resources and species as well.
In order to 1) ensure high-quality, diverse, and distributed monarch habitat, and 2) reduce extinction risk of the butterfly, we created and tested tool to quantify habitat quality based on habitat characteristics and demographic response variables. This tool provides science-based, objective and transparent assessments of habitat function or ecosystem service outputs.
As of February, 2016, the Monarch Habitat Quantification Tool has been tested across 3 states. The tool combines site-scale attributes, threats, and conservation priority to create a meaningful metric of habitat functionality. In this talk, I will describe 1) our cost-effective sampling methodology that captures site-specific data include important habitat characteristics such as milkweed and forb diversity and richness, 2) the incorporation of threats, including pesticide use, into the tool, and 3) the methodology of weighting sites and regions based on their importance to monarch migration.
As this tool was developed, we also investigated potential uses of this environmental metric, and I will discuss the current and future uses of the tool, as well as the limitations of our habitat quality calculations. This presentation will provide an example of how environmental metrics allow for regulators, regulated entities, conservationists, and landowners to understand a problem in the same way, communicate with a shared language, and work towards a common goal.