News

Professor Says Climate Change Could Impact Joshua Trees

Christopher Smith, assistant professor of biology, was quoted in a recent article in The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., on the possible extinction of the Joshua tree in a national park that bears its name.

Scientists are concerned about the ancient plants dying in Joshua Tree National Park, according to the article. Smith says in the article that Joshua trees, and plants in general, are “running a very slow race” as they attempt to compete with climate change.

Smith has researched the pollination biology of Joshua trees for the past seven years. As he visited populations of Joshua trees in the south and at low elevations, he noticed they were composed of only very tall, very old trees. With not enough new plants to replace the ones dying from old age, Smith says the trees ultimately could disappear from those areas. He also noticed that the pattern wasn’t random — the populations going extinct were mostly in areas that were probably experiencing the most severe effects of climate change. Joshua trees in the north or in the mountains seemed to be doing well.

To learn more about Smith’s work, go to www.willamette.edu/~csmith/ChrisSmith.htm. To read the full article in The Press-Enterprise, visit http://www.pe.com/localnews/environment/.

07-01-2009