Monarch Butterflies May Be Doomed: What Happens If They Go Extinct?

A recent report found that the Eastern population of the monarch butterflies in North America is still suffering from long-term population decline. If the trend continues, the iconic monarch butterflies could face an 11 to 57 percent chance of going quasi-extinct in the next two decades.

Butterflies and moths have been living on Earth for at least 50 million years. Their highly diverse group consists of more than 250,000 species. For centuries, butterflies have been used as "model organisms" for the investigation of various areas in biological research such as genetics, evolution, embryology, navigation, pest control, biodiversity conservation and population dynamics.

The long-standing and popularity of butterfly research has provided invaluable data that remains unmatched in terms of time and geographical scale worldwide. This collection of studies proves valuable to climate change research.

In recent years, mass populations of insect pollinators such as butterflies and bees have faced near-extinction events. These pollinators are extremely important in the world's food source. Without them, people will not enjoy chocolates, apples, coffee and other foods that have become vital in our daily existence.

Nearly 75 percent of the food crops worldwide depend on these pollinators, therefore, their existence and health affect the food production. Experts also said that in the past 50 years, agriculture's dependence on pollination increased by 300 percent.

Butterflies and moths are also vital indicators of a healthy environment and ecosystems. For instance, regions with healthy populations of butterflies and moths are also rich in other invertebrates. Collectively, the stability results in widespread environmental benefits such as natural pest control and healthy pollination.

Researchers also use butterflies as model organisms to study climate change as well as habitat loss and destruction. For instance, in 2015, a study found that six butterfly species that are particularly drought-sensitive could be lost by midcentury. Climate change-related droughts also put a strain on the butterflies and further increase the risk of extinction if nothing is done.

The loss of butterflies can also have educational impacts. Butterflies and moths' life-cycles provide valuable information to children about the wonders of the natural world. Butterflies are also used in the study of insect wing patterns, migration and iridescence.

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