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How Avocado Orchards are Impacting the Monarchs

The annual migration of the monarch butterfly is an amazing phenomenon. As the weather gets colder, swarms of monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico where it is warm all year, but there is now a new threat to their winter habitat. In the small farming town of Apútzio de Juárez, there is a desire to grow avocado, the lucrative creamy fruit that is being consumed at a record rate by Americans. In the western state of Michoacán, farmers are clearing oak and pine trees to make room for avocado orchards that form an important buffer close to the monarch's habitat.  

The majority of avocados are exported from Michoacán to the United States every year. Over the last several years, exports have doubled, creating a billion-dollar industry. Due to this "big business," deforestation is accelerating so producers can turn land over to avocado orchards. It is estimated that 65,000 acres have been converted to avocado growing since 2011.

To offset deforestation, GIRA, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable development, has planted more than 500,000 trees and plans on doubling that in the near future. However, growers from other areas are now buying land and clearing it. In addition, other surrounding towns are seeking certification to export avocados to the United States. 

Coupled with the danger to monarchs, some locals are also worried about their water system. The pine and oak trees help the water filter through the earth and into the spring. Conversely, avocado has shallow roots and consumes a lot of the water. If deforestation continues, the water supply could run out.

The monarch butterfly is a beautiful and unique creature that is in danger of extinction if things don't change. The conservation of their Mexican habitat is essential to their survival. Farmers and exporters need to seriously consider the implications of deforestation.