December 11, 2019
Joshua trees could be in danger of extinction
YUCCA VALLEY - A new jarring climate change statistic is out, and this time, the subject is the Joshua tree.

A new study has revealed that Joshua trees are in danger of extinction if climate change predictions pan out. After having grown in the Mojave Desert for the past 2.5 million years or so, Joshua trees are seriously vulnerable to the rapidly increasing summer temperatures.

By sampling the oldest out of a sample of 4,000 trees, researchers were able to predict where the Joshua trees could survive drought and extreme temperatures.

It is possible that only 19 percent of the Joshua Tree National Park’s tree habitat would remain suitable after 2070– and that's optimistic. That's if greenhouse gases are curbed enough that summer temperatures don't increase by more than 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, if greenhouse gases are not curbed and carbon emissions continue at their current rate, causing summer temperatures rise by 9 degrees Fahrenheit, only 0.02 percent of the habitat will survive to the end of the century.

They determined what areas of the park's Joshua tree habitat would be livable by comparing the projections of the park's future landscape to the ideal conditions Joshua trees need to thrive.

The researchers started the project with NPS to assess how communities of plants and animals within Joshua Tree National Park would change in the wake of a rapidly changing climate.

"I hope that people can get an idea of the range of future outcomes for some of the species and that based on climate mitigation, we can make a difference for some species at the end of century," Lynn C. Sweet, the study's lead author, told SFGATE, when asked what she hopes readers get out of reading statistics.

Sweet emphasized that the group applied realistic climate scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – illustrating cases where greenhouses gases are realistically mitigated and ones where they're not mitigated at all.
Story Date: August 16, 2019
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