CLIMATE CHANGE

October 29, 2015
CA: Joshua Tree National Monument, Mohave Desert, near Hidden Valley with Joshua tree ("Yucca brevifolia")

CA: Joshua Tree National Monument, Mohave Desert, near Hidden Valley with Joshua tree (“Yucca brevifolia”)

CLIMATE CHANGE:
It evaporates freshwater supplies, threatens desert trees; and spreads venomous species

NWNL has spent 8 years documenting how climate change degrades the sustainability of our watersheds. Loss of vegetation disrupts ecosystems and their capacity for freshwater retention. The introduction of new species within watersheds due to warmer temperatures disrupts the fragile balance of biodiversity and water supply. Two items in today’s news from California indicate such worrisome patterns are intensifying – in oft-unexpected ways.

“The Desert Southwest and the Arctic are being ripped apart by climate change faster than anywhere else, because they are North America’s most extreme ecosystems,”
Kieran Suckling, Executive Director of The Center for Biological Diversity.

Thousands of species are at risk because of the threat of climate change, especially in extreme ecosystems. An iconic species of the Mohave Desert, the Joshua tree is a unique, twisted and spikey tree resembling something out of a Dr. Seuss book; but it is threatened by climate change. Yes, we are learning that climate change is putting charismatic species like polar bears, rhinos and monarch butterflies on the unfortunate list of endangered species. But, how often do we consider whether plant life is endangered and whether trees are affected by the changes happening in their environment?

Studies have found that fewer young Joshua trees than ever are surviving in California’s popular Joshua Tree National Park. Over time, older Joshua trees have adapted to their dry environments by developing a shallow network of roots to help them collect water. Because of their rooting habits, they require only one good rainstorm every other year to survive. But the seedlings haven’t had time to develop their roots. Thus in today’s 5- year drought they are struggling to thrive in the desert and not as likely to replace the older trees (Osha Gray Davidson, National Geographic).

Not only is climate change threatening vegetation globally, but it is also introducing invasive species to new environments. One recent example is the arrival of red crabs and venomous sea snakes on the beaches of Southern California (Daniel Swain, The California Weather Blog).

USA California:  Carpenteria, Central Coast, Santa Barbara Channel of the Pacific Ocean, beach at a "king Tide" low tide,

USA California: Carpenteria, Central Coast, Santa Barbara Channel of the Pacific Ocean, beach at a “king Tide” low tide,

Disappearing Joshua trees and yellow-bellied snakes found on Oxnard CA beaches are just two of the many “canaries in the mine ” we are witnessing. Their message for us is that a sustainable future, freshwater supply and web of biodiversity all depend on global conservation, perhaps best defined as forbearance.

Educate yourself and others. Be mindful. Use your voice.

By: Jenna Petrone

Sources:
The California Weather Blog
National Geographic

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