Photo: Thibault Ulbrich/Shutterstock

Joshua Trees Are the First Plant to Be Granted Protection Because of Climate Change

Sustainability News National Parks
by Eben Diskin Oct 1, 2020

Thanks to climate change, the famous Joshua trees found in California’s Mojave Desert are in danger. To protect these trees from dying out by the end of the century, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition to protect Joshua trees under California’s Endangered Species Act. After California’s Fish and Game Commission accepted the petition, Joshua trees became the first plant species to be protected due to climate change threats. While the protection is due to last one year for now, another vote in 12 months’ time could make it permanent.

A study shows that by the end of this century, only 0.2 percent of the Joshua tree habitat will remain intact unless drastic action is taken.

The droughts that have plagued California make the soil too dry for young Joshua trees to grow healthy. The wildfires that the state is experiencing are also damaging the environment of the plant, and with temperatures rising, there’s very little hope in sight for the iconic Joshua trees.

During the year of protection, it will be illegal to damage, cut down, or remove a Joshua tree without special permits. If the protection remains in place, state and local agencies will develop a species recovery plan and strategy to protect the plant from the effects of climate change.

Brendan Cummings, the conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the petition, said in a statement, “This is a huge victory for these beautiful trees and their fragile desert ecosystem. If Joshua trees are to survive the inhospitable climate we’re giving them, the first and most important thing we can do is protect their habitat. This decision will do that across most of their range.”

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