Joshua Tree Losing Its Trees
Scientists blame climate change
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2011 4:56 PM CDT
View of the 1,234-square-mile Joshua Tree National Park, April 07, 2008.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – By the end of the century, Joshua Tree National Park will have no more Joshua trees, according to a study by US Geological Survey scientists. The spiky trees, iconic in Southern California deserts including the national park named after them, will probably disappear from 90% of their current range in that time frame, the study shows. That range also includes Nevada and Arizona, KQED reports.

"Sometimes the climate changes rapidly, like it did 11,700 years ago" at the end of the ice age, says the lead author. "At that time the Joshua trees squashed into a narrow band at the northern edge of their range. That'll happen again," due to a projected increase in temperatures by four degrees Celsius in the Southwest. "The southerly ones will not be able to persist." The loss is particularly significant for the Joshua tree since its expansion rate is very low, he continues: "Going 100 feet every 20 years is not moving as quickly as it needs to to keep up with climate change."