Study: Climate change is pushing the Sonoran Desert toward a weedier, barren future

By Erin Rode | Palm Springs Desert Sun |

THE DESERT SUN - From pinyon pines to ocotillos, plants in the Sonoran Desert are shifting where they grow in response to climate change, and many of the plants aren’t thriving in their new ranges, according to a new study from researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

The study, published in the journal Functional Ecology in March, focused on observations by the research team at the Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center, located south of Palm Desert and east of Highway 74 in the Sonoran Desert, in 2019. The Sonoran Desert covers the southeastern corner of California, including the Coachella Valley, and stretches into southwest Arizona and the Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur.

Researchers traveled from the top to bottom of an 8,000-foot research area that stretches from the desert to the mountaintops, and through a range of plant communities, from desert scrub plants to pinyon-juniper woodlands to coniferous forest. The same research area was examined by ecologists in 1977 and 2008, which was used as a basis to compare with the recent findings.



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