News Release

Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve and Brazil’s Cerrado face increasing threats – IUCN

01 July 2015
Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus)
Photo: Jack Dykinga

IUCN raises concerns over the state of Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and Brazil’s Cerrado Protected Areas today at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting taking place in Bonn, Germany.

As recommended by IUCN, the World Heritage Committee requested today a report from Mexico, in consultation with Canada and the United States, regarding efforts to conserve the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The Monarch Butterfly crosses all three countries during its annual multi-generational migration. The report will be examined by the Committee in 2017.

Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve witnesses the most spectacular example of insect migration, with up to a billion butterflies returning to the site each autumn from breeding areas as far away as Canada.

The property hosts an estimated 70% of the total overwintering eastern population of the Monarch Butterfly. However, in recent years there has been a significant decrease in Monarch Butterflies in the reserve. This decline has been linked to changing agricultural practices leading to a significant loss of milkweed plants, which are the sole source of food for the caterpillars, along the species’ migration route in Canada and the United States.

The site’s conservation prospects have been assessed as ‘critical’ by the IUCN World Heritage Outlook, highlighting the urgent need to preserve its outstanding values. The Outlook is the first global assessment of natural World Heritage.

River rapids in Chapada do Veadeiros National Park, Brazil Photo: IUCNLack of legal protection has been threatening the integrity of Brazil’s Cerrado Protected Areas Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks World Heritage site for over a decade, according to IUCN. Despite some progress, the process of restoring protection of the site has been hampered by unresolved land tenure issues in the area. Appropriate legal protection is one of the fundamental conditions for a site to be listed as World Heritage.

Although IUCN recommended the site to be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, the decision has been postponed until next year’s Committee meeting, following the commitment expressed by Brazil to upgrade the protection status of the entire site. Brazil has invited IUCN’s advice in this regard.

“Time is of the essence for the future of Cerrado: the longer the site goes unprotected, the more it is exposed to external pressures, such as conversion of land for agricultural use,” says Tim Badman, Director if IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “We welcome Brazil’s commitment to improve the protection of the area to make sure the site remains in good condition.”

The site is part of the vast Cerrado ecoregion, one of the world’s oldest and most diverse tropical ecosystems. It has served for millennia as a refuge for species during periods of climate change, and could play a vital role in maintaining Cerrado’s biodiversity during future climate fluctuations. The area is home to a wide variety of rare species, including the Giant Anteater, the Giant Armadillo and the Yellow-faced Parrot.

Earlier today, the World Heritage Committee adopted IUCN’s advice to continue close monitoring of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Committee has requested Australia to report, in two years’ time, on progress made in implementing the Great Barrier Reef 2050 sustainability plan submitted by the government, including information on secured investment. In five years’ time, Australia must also present a formal report to the Committee on the effectiveness of the plan.

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