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Pollinator Cities Really Could Save the Monarchs

The milkweed needed to stabilize the country’s monarch-butterfly population thrives in metropolitan areas—especially on residential land.
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Gregory Bull/AP

The number of Bengal tigers is dwindling. Orangutans and some African elephant populations are also at risk. Monarch butterflies are dropping out of the air, and may end up on the endangered list by 2020, too. Blame the encroachment of human footprints and human-driven development for their deaths—indeed, blame humans for much of the deforestation, overfishing, and climate change that are shrinking the variety of the natural world.

But a growing body of research suggests that human-dense cities and flourishing wildlife aren’t incompatible, after all. It’s in urban areas that animals like fishers and coyotes and bullfinches and peregrines are finding new life, and on patches of city terrain that birds and dragonflies and butterflies are perching as they complete their migratory paths. Partly because they tend to be in coastal and riparian areas with high biodiversity, cities are becoming crucial havens for many animal species as once-open lands are transformed by agriculture and development.