Must be sacrificed to save Joshua Tree

Jeremy B. Yoda, Christopher I. Smith, Cameron W. Burrows

Credit: CC0 public domain

Joshua Tree, the tall and winding succulent plant that characterizes the Mojave Desert, has survived.

Unlike sequoia and giant sequoia, when Europeans colonized their homes, they largely escaped harvest and habitat loss. In fact, they prospered until the last decades of the 20th century brought about vast developments and a changing climate.

3 weeks ago Federal court The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service underestimated these threats in its 2019 assessment and decided that Joshua Tree needed to be reconsidered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Its protection is the first step towards securing the future of the tree, but it is only the first step.

Today, Joshua Tree is caught in a tangle of intertwined threats. Models of future climate show that more than 90% of the tree’s current habitat will be inadequate by the end of this century. In the hotter and drier areas of Mojave, Joshua tree saplings are already a rare sight. Not only are Joshua trees rooted in the ground, but their seeds are inefficient by desert rodents, although more mobile flora and fauna species have already begun to shift to cooler, moist parts of the range. Is distributed. Given that it takes decades for trees to grow to breeding age and their mobility is at most hundreds of yards, we cannot expect to outpace climate change.

Joshua groves have places where the climate can continue to be appropriate 80 years later. It is called “Climate Refugium”. Unfortunately, not all refugium is on protected land, and even climatic shelters in national parks are not safe against the increasing frequency of wildfires throughout Mojave. The cooler conditions that define rejection are also better suited for certain grasses that create vegetation carpets to burn fire, and climate change-supercharged droughts make this vegetation carpet crater-dry. Guarantee.

Refugium is located in the highlands of Joshua Tree National Park, but in recent decades up to half of it has burned. Another possible shelter was destroyed by a Cima Dome fire in the Mojave National Preserve last year, burning a million Joshua trees. It will take decades to recover the population after these losses.

Joshua Tree is also threatened by expanding Urban area— The cities of Antelope Valley in Lancaster, Palmdale and Victorville have quintupled in population since 1980 — and with developments associated with mining and wind and solar power.

The Land Management Department is considering a mining exploration proposal near the conglomerate mesa, a climatic shelter that may have vast Joshua tree forest areas. Mojave also plans to develop intensive solar energy to address the broader threat of climate change. The Federal Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Program has designated Mojave’s 600 square miles for energy development, and California has spent most of its space on solar farms to achieve planned carbon emission reductions. Must be met.

Many of these farms can be built without compromising the pristine Joshua Tree habitat, but there is no doubt that the scale of development required to control climate change will be enormous. Ironically, building the renewable energy capacity desperately needed to avoid more serious climate change could, in some cases, directly conflict with Joshua’s ability to survive climate change. I have.

Now that climate catastrophe has become a reality in our daily lives, we must act urgently to find and protect the best Joshua tree population to survive. Fighting to save all the last Joshua Tree is not just in vain. There is also the risk of wasting time, resources, valuable social capital and political goodwill.

Our best hope is to focus on protecting the places where Joshua Tree still has a chance to fight, but we still don’t have the data needed to confidently identify those places.

Determining which Joshua Tree focused protection is needed can dramatically improve the collection of field information on the health of the Joshua Tree population throughout the Mojave Desert. We also need quality genetic data that is rarely collected in other endangered species to identify genetic variants that allow Joshua Tree to survive the most demanding conditions. Populations that already carry these subspecies may have a higher priority for protection.

You can also replant the burnt area climate Refugium with genetically tuned seeds to survive warmer and drier conditions, or even seeds transplanted from more robust relatives, may even supplement the failed population.

People who live and enjoy the wild landscape of Mojave must be partners in this effort, from data collection to decision making. Tribes, states and local governments that oversee much of the area’s private land need to be included in the development of plans to manage their most distinctive trees, which are far more successful with the opinions and support of the people. Probably. Call the desert your hometown.

None of this is easy. It is much easier to declare and carry out all the trees as sacred. However, that approach does not take advantage of the resilience within the Joshua Tree population and can jeopardize a wider range of battles. Climate change..Joshua wood A case study of the entanglement of trade-offs we must make to protect the biodiversity of warming planets. With caution and perspective, they can be a model for how we solve these dilemmas.

Conservationists want to protect Joshua Tree in California

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Must be sacrificed to save Joshua Tree

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