"The life cycle of monarchs creates opportunities for untapped market-based conservation approaches," Diffendorfer continued. "Ordinary households, conservation organizations, and natural resource agencies can all plant milkweed and flowering plants to offset ongoing losses in the species' breeding habitat."
According to the annual survey of the National Gardening Association, households that identify as "do-it-yourself lawn and gardeners" spent $29.1 billion in related retail sales in 2012.
"By reallocating some of those purchases to monarch-friendly plants, people would be able to contribute to the conservation of the species as well as maintain a flower garden," said Oberhauser. "Helping restore the monarch's natural habitat, and potentially the species' abundance, is something that people can do at home by planting milkweed and other nectar plants."
Unfortunately, many plants purchased by gardeners have been treated with systemic insecticides that can kill both pollinators that consume the nectar, and caterpillars, like monarchs, that eat the leaves.
"This study shows that not only might consumers pay more for monarch-friendly milkweeds grown without systemic insecticides in the potting soil, but also that consumers might be more interested overall in buying nectar-producing plants or milkweeds if they knew a small percentage of sales will be donated to habitat conservation," said Diffendorfer.
The study, released today in Conservation Letters, was authored by researchers with the USGS, Colorado State University, the University of Minnesota, and others, who participated in a USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis working group.
|Contact: Ethan Alpern|
United States Geological Survey