California's Joshua trees at the risk of disappearing

Los Angeles: Joshua trees, an iconic species of the arid southwestern United States, may totally disappear by the end of the century because of climate change, according to a new study. A team from the University of California at Riverside used data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to assess the impact of warming on the distribution of Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) in their namesake Joshua Tree National Park.

The park, which straddles the Colorado and Mojave deserts in southern California, is home to the greatest concentration of the species, which are in fact not trees at all but members of the agave family which can sometimes appear tree-like. According to the team's modeling, in an optimistic scenario whereby humanity is able to limit greenhouse emissions to a degree, the trees' cover would retreat by about 80 percent by end of the 21st century. But under a "business as usual" scenario, the modeling indicates the complete elimination of a species that dates to the Pleistocene era.

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