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Monarchs, Milkweeds, Modeling: How Climate Change Will Affect Species Distribution in Florida

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Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are predicted to go quasi-extinct within the next 20 years. Pesticides, pathogens, habitat loss, and the effects of climate change are all driving this charismatic and formerly widespread species towards unsustainably low populations. Climate change is increasingly of concern in terms of Monarch conservation because it exacerbates other factors, particularly, habitat fragmentation and depletion of the Monarch’s host genus, the Asclepias. Monarchs are dependent on Asclepias, commonly known as Milkweeds, for their reproduction and success of multigenerational migrations. Monarch distribution is more limited by Asclepias distribution than by environmental factors; as such, understanding how Asclepias respond to climate change is an important element of Monarch conservation. How climate change will affect Asclepias and Monarch populations in Florida, a major Monarch migratory route, is not fully understood. To investigate this, I built a Species Distribution Model using the modeling program MaxEnt. By modeling the present and future distribution of introduced Asclepias curassavica, Florida natives A. tuberosa and A. perennis, and Monarchs within the state of Florida, I aimed to address how changing environmental conditions would affect the spatial distribution of Monarchs. Preliminary results indicate range reduction for Asclepias species, with the potential for local extinctions of A. currasavica and A. incarnata within Florida. Further analysis will explore questions as to which host plants will be used by future monarch populations and investigate trends in terms of the directionality of range change.

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Monarchs, Milkweeds, Modeling: How Climate Change Will Affect Species Distribution in Florida

Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are predicted to go quasi-extinct within the next 20 years. Pesticides, pathogens, habitat loss, and the effects of climate change are all driving this charismatic and formerly widespread species towards unsustainably low populations. Climate change is increasingly of concern in terms of Monarch conservation because it exacerbates other factors, particularly, habitat fragmentation and depletion of the Monarch’s host genus, the Asclepias. Monarchs are dependent on Asclepias, commonly known as Milkweeds, for their reproduction and success of multigenerational migrations. Monarch distribution is more limited by Asclepias distribution than by environmental factors; as such, understanding how Asclepias respond to climate change is an important element of Monarch conservation. How climate change will affect Asclepias and Monarch populations in Florida, a major Monarch migratory route, is not fully understood. To investigate this, I built a Species Distribution Model using the modeling program MaxEnt. By modeling the present and future distribution of introduced Asclepias curassavica, Florida natives A. tuberosa and A. perennis, and Monarchs within the state of Florida, I aimed to address how changing environmental conditions would affect the spatial distribution of Monarchs. Preliminary results indicate range reduction for Asclepias species, with the potential for local extinctions of A. currasavica and A. incarnata within Florida. Further analysis will explore questions as to which host plants will be used by future monarch populations and investigate trends in terms of the directionality of range change.