As the planet warms, Sonoran Desert plants may have a tough time adapting

By Ron Dungan
Published: Monday, May 15, 2023 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, May 15, 2023 - 9:29am

One might think that plants that thrive in the Sonoran Desert and nearby ecosystems would be well suited for climate change, but researchers found they have had difficulty adapting to a warmer planet.

Previous studies have shown that in temperate mountain regions, trees will take root in higher elevations in the face of climate change.

A team of California researchers looked at weather patterns and plant shifts in the desert, and found that while some species moved higher, others went lower.

They also found precipitation patterns trending to drier winters and wetter summers.

"Desert ecosystems are much more sensitive than we thought, and that they’re being pushed to their physiological threshold with climate change just in the past 40 years. So it’s happening a lot faster than anyone anticipated," said Tesa Madsen-Hepp, the lead author of the study.

The paper was published in the journal Functional Ecology.