Landscape Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 443–458 | Cite as

Modeling fall migration pathways and spatially identifying potential migratory hazards for the eastern monarch butterfly

  • James L. TracyEmail author
  • Tuula Kantola
  • Kristen A. Baum
  • Robert N. Coulson
Research Article



Identifying core migratory pathways and associated threats is important for developing conservation priorities for declining migratory species, such as eastern monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus L.).


Characterization of monarch fall migration core pathways and annual variability was compared using kernel density estimation models (KDEMs) and MaxEnt ecological niche models. Potential anthropogenic hazards were identified across migratory pathways and related to conservation strategies.


Journey North citizen scientist monarch overnight roost data from 2002 to 2016 were used to model the fall migration at 10 km spatial resolution with MaxEnt and KDEMs. Potential anthropogenic threats to the fall migration were spatially identified along core migratory routes.


The KDEM migratory pathways best represented patterns of monarch movement towards overwintering locations. Migratory routes varied as much as 200 km from east to west in the southern Central Flyway, which was also the only area identified with monarch roadkill hotspots. Potential threats from mosquito adulticide ultra-low volume (ULV) spraying were concentrated along Eastern Flyway coastal areas. Potential nectar resource loss or contamination from high usage of glyphosate herbicide and neonicotinoid insecticides was greatest in the Midwest, within the core route of the Central Flyway.


MaxEnt and KDEM were complementary in modeling monarch migratory pathways. Monarch roadkill estimation and mitigation strategies are most needed in the southern core migratory pathways through Texas and Mexico. High quality nectar resource enhancement could help to mitigate potential threats from mosquito ULV spraying and nectar resource loss or contamination in coastal areas and the Midwest, respectively.


Citizen science Ecolological niche models KDE models Migratory threats Mitigation conservation Pollinators 



We are grateful to the Elizabeth Howard and the citizen science volunteers of Journey North for contributing 15 years of monarch overnight roosting data critical for our analyses. Support for Journey North is provided by the Annenberg Foundation. We are also thankful to Elizabeth Howard for comments on an early draft of this manuscript. This research was funded by support from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Economic Growth and Endangered Species Management Division, Interagency Contract No. 16-5979.

Supplementary material

10980_2019_776_MOESM1_ESM.docx (59 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 60432 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Knowledge Engineering Laboratory, Department of EntomologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Integrative BiologyOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

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