The San Francisco Chronicle has an alarming article today about the declining populations of butterflies in California. Dr. Arthur Shapiro, a UC Davis entomologist and professor of evolution and ecology, has been tracking butterflies in the state for 35 years. He monitors ten study sites and maintains one of the two largest butterfly databases in the world. According to his data, this year at most of the study sites, they have seen half or less than half of the number of species they would ususally see at this time of year. Shapiro attributes the sharp decline to the particularly weird weather we've had this year (mild temperatures, heavy rain) caused by global warming. Butterfly populations have been on a definite decline in recent years because of climate change as well as habitat loss.
Makes me glad that I went with my Landscape-Hort class last week to do some maintenance gardening in the Butterfly Habitat at the Oakland Zoo. We weeded, trimmed up, and mulched a little spot they keep dedicated mostly to native plants for the butterflies, like Pacific Coast Iris, salvias, and sticky monkey flower. And even though it was hot and sweaty work, it's good to know the butterflies will have a tidy playground to romp in.