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Joshua trees — some of the most unusual and iconic plants of the American Southwest — have survived as a species for some 2.5 million years in the inhospitable Mojave Desert. Now, they may face imminent extinction due to climate change.
The study authors found that, if greenhouse gas emissions are seriously curbed and summer temperatures are limited to an increase of 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius), about 19% of the park's Joshua tree habitat would survive after the year 2070.
Action - Carbon - Emissions - Summer - Temperatures
If no action is taken to reduce carbon emissions and summer temperatures rise by 9 F (5 C) or more, however, only 0.02% of the tree's habitat would survive to the end of the century — leaving the rare tree a hair away from extinction.
"The fate of these unusual, amazing trees is in all of our hands," lead study author Lynn Sweet, a plant ecologist at the University of California, Riverside said in a statement. "Their numbers will decline, but how much depends on us."
Joshua - Tree - National - Park - Miles
Joshua Tree National Park covers 1,200 square miles (3,200 square kilometers) of sandy, hilly terrain in the desert between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Arizona. The spiny-armed Joshua trees have survived millions of years of climate ups and downs by holding on to large amounts of water to carry them through the region's harshest droughts.
However, the study authors wrote, young Joshua trees and seedlings aren't able to store enough water to weather these dry spells. During long droughts — such as the epic, 376-week-long one that lasted from December 2011 to March 2019 in California — various parts of the park became too parched to support young Joshua tree growth, preventing the species from reproducing properly.
Temperatures - Droughts - World
As global temperatures rise, more and longer droughts are expected to occur around the world, and that means...
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