Environment & Science

Drought speeds decline of beloved California Joshua trees

Scientists predict that Joshua trees will lose 90 percent of their current range in Joshua Tree National Park by the end of the century if the warmer, drier conditions continue.
Scientists predict that Joshua trees will lose 90 percent of their current range in Joshua Tree National Park by the end of the century if the warmer, drier conditions continue.
David McNew/Getty Images

In the California desert, Joshua tree seedlings are shriveling up and dying before they get the chance to put down strong roots.

The Los Angeles Times reports that University of California, Riverside ecologist Cameron Barrows says the current drought has hastened the decline of the species.

Barrows says the hot, dry weather hurts the trees, but the bigger problem is what little rainfall there is evaporates faster.

Joshua Tree National Park has an average precipitation rate of about 4 inches per year, but so far this year only 1.71 inches of rain have fallen.

Scientists predict that the trees will lose 90 percent of their current range in the park by the end of the century if the warmer, drier conditions continue.