National valuation of monarch butterflies indicates an untapped potential for incentive-based conservation

Jay E. Diffendorfer, John B. Loomis, Leslie Ries, Karen Oberhauser, Laura Lopez-Hoffman, Darius Semmens, Brice Semmens, Bruce Butterfield, Ken Bagstad, Josh Goldstein, Ruscena Wiederholt, Brady Mattsson, Wayne E. Thogmartin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The annual migration of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) has high cultural value and recent surveys indicate monarch populations are declining. Protecting migratory species is complex because they cross international borders and depend on multiple regions. Understanding how much, and where, humans place value on migratory species can facilitate market-based conservation approaches. We performed a contingent valuation study of monarchs to understand the potential for such approaches to fund monarch conservation. The survey asked U.S. respondents about the money they would spend, or have spent, growing monarch-friendly plants, and the amount they would donate to monarch conservation organizations. Combining planting payments and donations, the survey indicated U.S. households valued monarchs as a total one-time payment of $4.78-$6.64 billion, levels similar to many endangered vertebrate species. The financial contribution of even a small percentage of households through purchases or donations could generate new funding for monarch conservation through market-based approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-262
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • Conservation planning
  • Contingent valuation
  • Danaus plexippus
  • Ecosystem services
  • Migration
  • Monarch
  • Willingness to pay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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