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Scientists say climate change could kill off California’s iconic Joshua trees by end of century

Posted at 3:18 PM, Oct 25, 2019

JOSHUA TREE, Cali. – Scientists say climate change could kill off California’s iconic Joshua trees completely.

“The future for Joshua trees might be a little bleak and we know that,” said University of California Riverside biologist Lynn Sweet, Ph.D.

Sweet says these trees, which have been on the planet for more than 2.5 million years, could soon be extinct due to warming weather.

Her team of scientists released a new study showing the impacts of climate change on California’s high desert -- saying as the Earth gets hotter and gets less rain, it will be harder for these trees to survive.

“Joshua trees need really special conditions in order to germinate and grow,” Sweet said. “And those conditions might happen less and less frequently.”

Sweet predicts Joshua trees could be extinct within the next 50 years.

“We’re looking at the future of maybe keeping 20 percent of the Joshua trees if we really get our acts together,” she said. “And we’re looking at less than 1 percent of Joshua tree habitat remaining in the park if we don’t do something about climate change.”

Some visitors say they are already seeing the change.

“The Joshua trees don’t look happy,” tourist Jean Blattner said. “They seem to be in the park area suffering.”

Blattner has been visiting Joshua Tree National Park for the past 30 years and says the conditions are getting worse.

“They’re not as full; they don’t seem to have the glisten that they used to when the sun shined on them before,” she said.

Not everyone, however, everyone is buying it.

“Even though it looks a little dry it’s still full of life,” said Nelson Perez, who has lived in Joshua Tree for 20 years.

Perez supports science but doesn’t believe that these trees could be completely wiped off the planet by the end of the century.

“I don’t think it’s to an extent that a lot of the climate changers beliefs are so I’m kind of in the middle,” he said.

Sweet, however, says science supports her findings and encourages people to think about how their carbon footprint impacts the environment.

“So, the degree to which the Joshua Tree is in trouble is really up to us,” she said. “If we can make a difference, we can make a difference for these trees.”