According to a recent study, the ongoing drought that affects California may also be directly responsible for the decline of the iconic Joshua trees that live in the desert regions.
Ecologists suggest that the young seedlings of the Joshua trees, which mainly live in the Mojave Desert, are currently shriveling and dying because they don’t have sufficient water to grow into trees and have strong roots.
Cameron Barrows, researcher at the University of California and one of the ecologists who noticed that the Joshua trees are dying, explained that although these trees are affected by the hotter and drier conditions of the desert, they are more affected by the fact that there is very little rainfall and the water evaporates very quickly.
Because of these harsh conditions, the trees’ seedlings are left in a very weak state and some of the Joshua trees that live in the desert have not reproduced for many years.
According to the experts, the Mojave Desert and its surrounding regions, including the Joshua Tree National Park, has experienced less than half its usual four inches of rain that falls annually. This has been happening for the last several years, ecologists added.
The researchers fear that if these harsh weather conditions continue as they are now, by the end of this century more than 90% of the park’s trees will wither and die completely.
A recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows that the severe drought that has struck California in recent years is the worst in the last millennium.
The experts say that the drought not only affects the iconic Joshua trees but also many other species that are dependent on them, including some species of reptiles like the desert night lizards, kangaroo rats, yucca moths and more than 20 species of birds.
Rebecca R. Hernandez, biologist at the UC Berkeley, believes that apart from being extremely important for its ecosystem, the Joshua trees are a cultural signature for the Californian desert landscape.
The iconic trees were named by the Mormon settles who trekked the Mojave desert in the 19th century.
They named the tree after the biblical character Joshua because of its distinctive branch shape.
However, Joshua trees are not actually trees but belong to the genus yucca, a species of succulent plant.
Joshua trees can live more than 200 years and can grow up to 40 feet high.
Image Source: apogeephoto