Joshua tree

Where the Sonoran and Mojave deserts meet in California, you’ll find Joshua Tree National Park, home to giant tree-like succulents with green tufts on their branches.

The iconic Joshua tree has thrived in this location since the last ice age, but global warming and other stressors are shrinking its habitat.

Mature Joshua trees have a wide, shallow root network and need just one big rainfall every couple of years to survive.

But young trees need more frequent rainfall, because their roots are not as developed. So they struggle to survive during droughts which are becoming longer and more frequent with climate change.

With fewer new trees growing to maturity, Joshua trees are disappearing. Cameron Barrows of the University of California-Riverside says that by the end of the century, the Joshua tree population could shrink to just one tenth of its current size.

With fewer new trees growing to maturity because of drought, iconic Joshua trees are disappearing. Click To Tweet

Barrows: “So that’s the bad news. The good news is at the higher elevations, and areas that tend to get a little bit higher rainfall, they are reproducing just fine.”

Barrows says protecting these areas from other stresses like fire or invasive species is our best chance for protecting the Joshua tree for future generations.

Reporting credit: Justyna Bicz/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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