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To understand monarch butterfly migration in greater detail and to garner insights into their decline, we need to understand their fly-over states and regions, a new study has urged.

A study published in journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene calls for greater understanding of the journey of migratory animals if we want to understand how we can pave way for their conservation as well as sustained growth. Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) use the endangered Kirtland’s warblers to show how connecting all migration’s points could help us pave way for their sustainability. Scientists garnered greater understanding of what sort of needs the songbirds have along the way, and what kind of ecological and socioeconomic impacts their annual distant movement have across the world.

Authors of the study note that while their findings are based on the study of Kirtland’s warblers, the general outlook implies to pretty much all species that carry out long-distance migration and have multiple stopover points throughout their migration path.

Using the method developed by MSU scientists, we can chart out the holistic view about different migratory birds and animals including the monarch butterflies. Scientists point out that understanding of stop-over sites or fly-over states is important for all migratory birds, animals and insects to understanding their their breeding and wintering bases.

Kirtland’s warblers’ fates are tied closely to their specific habitats — they spend their breeding season primarily in jack pine forests of Michigan, and came close to extinction in the 1950s as human activity wiped out many of those forests and parasitic cowbirds further reduced the warblers’ population. Kirtland’s warblers are conservation-reliant, meaning they survive because humans actively make accommodations to them, and human activities also have compromised their ability to survive. That, the authors say, makes understanding every stop of their migration crucial, and makes the telecoupling framework — a research method that reflects the interactions of all points of that journey.

Scientists say the holistic view is important because if we didn’t have this view, efforts to save the Kirtland’s warblers in one area can be rendered less effective if the birds migrate to another area that can’t sustain them. Developing this type of understanding can apply far beyond the warblers and make conservation decisions more efficient for other migratory animals and insects like monarch butterflies.

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