Global Warming

Desert plant life disappearing due to climate change

The steady decline of plants in Southern California’s portion of the Sonoran Desert — which includes Anza-Borrego Desert State Park — is caused by climate change-driven heat increases, according to a new UC Irvine study.

That area grew hotter by 3 degrees over the study period, 1984 to 2017, with vegetation decreasing an average of about 1% a year in the desert portions of the study area. While fluctuations in rainfall accounted for some of the year-to-year variation, the broader trend resulted overall decrease of 35% of vegetation in desert ecosystems and a 13% decline in the adjacent mountains.

The findings, based on 34 years of NASA satellite images of 5,000 square miles of desert, add to a small but growing body of evidence that manmade climate change is reducing the amount of vegetation in drylands — primarily desert areas — worldwide, with trickle-down effects on animals and, in some cases, humans. About 41% of the Earth’s land mass is drylands, according to the UCI report.

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