Take Two, the award winning Southern California Public Radio program has detailed the devastating effect of climate change on Southern California’s desserts.
Take Two reported that Ian James, environment reporter for The Desert Sun, wrote a three-part investigation on how climate change could drastically affect the flora, fauna, and people of this arid landscape.
“Basically in the desert there’s very little humidity in the air,” said James on Take Two. “That lack of humidity in the air, in the soil, in the whole region makes it so the hotter temperatures don’t have that one other element to bump up against that would make it a little less intense.”
As a result, he adds, places like the deserts of the Southwest have seen a higher increase in average temperature than elsewhere in the country. Researchers like Cameron Barrows, ecologist at UC Riverside, told James that could lead to profound impacts on the landscapes, including a site like Joshua Tree National Park.
“About 90 percent of the Joshua trees within the park would be gone,” says Barrows, explaining that it would take just decades for that to happen. But already husks of Joshua trees are scattered throughout the park where, a few years ago, lush, vibrant trees had stood.
Currently, researchers are finding that new trees and seedlings are propagating more at higher elevations — and cooler climates — but what’s unknown is if they can sustainably adapt in the long-term.
You can listen to a nine minute audio-essay on the report at KPCC’s website.