We use climatic conditions that are associated with known monarch butterfly overwintering groves in California to build a Maxent model, and focus on the fine scale probability of overwintering grove occurrence in a topographically complex region of the state (Santa Barbara County). Grove locations are known from recent and historical surveys and a long-term citizen science database. The climatic niche model performs well, predicting that overwintering habitat is most likely to occur along the coast and at low elevations, as shown by empirical data. We then use climatic variables in conjunction with climate change scenarios to model the future location of overwintering habitat, and find a substantial shift in the predicted distribution. Under a plausible scenario, the probability of occurrence of overwintering habitat directly reflects elevation, with coastal regions having a reduced probability relative to today, and higher elevation sites increasing in probability. Under a more extreme scenario, high probability sites are only located along ridgelines and in mountaintop regions of the county. This predicted shift in distribution is likely to have management implications, as sites that currently lack monarchs may become critical to conservation in the future. Our results suggest that estimating the size of the western overwintering population in the future will be problematic, unless annual counts compensate for a shift in the distribution and a potential change in the number and location of occupied sites.



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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/bio_fac/477