Research Round #4: "How has the Joshua tree and the yucca moth shaped the Mojave Desert?"

Hey everyone! I'm back for round four of my inquiry question: "How has the Joshua tree and the yucca moth shaped the Mojave Desert?" For this round, I will be talking about climate change, environmental issues, and other threats that are challenging the desert. In addition, I will also touch on how the desert is getting preserved and how we are helping to protect the animals and plants. 

Threats to the Desert:

Water Pollution

Water is already pretty scarce in the Mojave. So, to make matters worse, these water sources are being overused, and will continued to be overused as the human population increases. This is draining wetlands and rivers in the Mojave which are water sources to animals, and habitats for fish and wildlife. Some of this water is getting contaminated by chemicals, and metals from urban, agricultural and mining lands. (1) 

Invasive/Alien Plants

Invasive plants, also known as alien plants, or non-native plants, are species brought into the desert by humans, not naturally. Many are being drawn by nitrogen rich soil, caused by pollutants in the air, and soil disturbance. Some examples of these plants are: saltcedar, brome grasses, perennial pepperweed, and Russian thistle (1). Most of these non-native plants are not harmful, although they are crowding out native plants (7). This is a huge problem, because they are causing the native plants to die out, and some animals depend on these plants for food. This means, these animals will either have to adapt, move elsewhere, or they may just die of starvation (3). In addition, these invasive plants are producing extra fuel for fires that are now becoming more frequent and harsh. This is terrible for the Mojave, which has a very fragile ecosystem that recovers very slowly (1). 

Air Pollution

A major cause of air pollution in the Mojave is smog getting blown into the desert from bordering cities. The smog has high concentrations of monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. This is causing bad visibility, health problems for humans, harming water quality, and it's hurting plants and animals in the Mojave (1).

Another cause of air pollution is the disturbance of desert soil, by off-road vehicles, agriculture, construction, military training, and mining operations. These activities are creating great plumes/clouds of dust, and damaging desert vegetation (1). 

Ground level ozone in the lower atmosphere is formed from nitrogen oxides (vehicles, power plants) and organic compounds (gasolines, solvents). This is killing plant tissues when the ozone enters through the pores. As a result, it's reducing photosynthesis, growth and reproduction (8). 

effects_ecological_ozonedamage_poplar

This is a plant before and after extensive ozone exposure. 

 

Litter pollution

As more people visit the Mojave Desert, more litter and garbage is getting left behind. This is getting eaten by animals, as they mistake it for food and it is causing all sorts of problems, the worst of which can kill the animal (1). Urbanization and suburbanization in Los Angeles and San Diego is also increasing the need for landfills. The garbage from these landfills can also be blown in the desert too (4). 

Climate Change

Years of droughts and rising temperatures are withering plants/vegetation, and many animals, such as the desert tortoise. This is causing animals to die of starvation. Although many desert animals have adapted to extreme heat and long periods of time without water, the temperatures are still continuing to rise, and it's pushing some of these animals to their limit. A Desert Sun analysis found that the average monthly temperatures were 1.7 degrees farenheit hotter during the past 20 years. Additionally, the average number of days each year that are hotter than 90 degrees is more than 25%. Scientists think that this number will increase as more greenhouse gases rise in the atmosphere (2).

How we are helping to fight these problems: 

The Californian desert protection act is in the process to be passed to help preserve the Mojave Desert's wild lands. This act would help preserve 1.6 million acres of the desert (6). 

Donations can also be made to the National Park Foundation, through a purchase at many of the visitor centres throughout the desert (5).

To combat air pollution, the National Park Service has been monitoring nitrogen, sulphur, ozone, fine particles and haze throughout the desert. They have been working with the federal, state, and local agencies to create plans to reduce air pollution. Finally, they are encouraging energy efficiency, and solar energy (8). 

References: 

(1) https://sciencing.com/pollutio...ve-desert-21325.html

(2) http://www.desertsun.com/story...rt-animals/10035779/

(3) https://biomemojavedesert.weebly.com/threats.html

(4) https://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/na1308

(5) https://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/donate.htm

(6) http://wilderness.org/article/...esert-protection-act

(7) http://mojavedesert.net/plants/vegetation/16.html

(8) https://www.nature.nps.gov/air/aqbasics/ecologic.cfm


For my next round, I will be answering and talking about my inquiry question, and using all my information I have gathered to support it. 

Comments and suggestions welcome!

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Original Post

Hi, Madison, 

Great post, I have been hearing about pollution in a lot of ways ,but this is the first time that I hear about pollution in the desert. It seems like many threats to the desert are the same ones to the earth. There is no doubt that all these terrible pollution are caused by human activities. Indeed, it is our responsibilities to bring the desert back to normal. Maybe you can attach some links so that we can donate to the associations, we can contribute our little to the whole. Looking forward to the next post!! More interesting examples are below! 

https://www.quora.com/What-kin...resent-in-the-desert

Hey Madison, 

Truthfully, I never knew about climate change and litter pollution being an issue until you brought it to my attention. I've only ever thought water would be a problem because its a desert and air pollution since many cars drive through it daily to see the beautiful trees. To help reduce air pollution would it be possible for all cars to park in a large parking lot near the entrance and people would walk the trails or maybe provide daily tours on busses. I know it's a large park that you wouldn't get through in one day on foot, but maybe this solution could help fix the problem even though it's not ideal for tourists. Anyways I like how you are going to wrap up your research next week and connect all of them together. Personally, I think it helps me understand your project a little bit better.

Keep up the great, detailed rounds of research!  

Hey Madison, great round of research! It was interesting to learn that pollution is actually a problem in the desert. I guess I never really thought about how there could be pollution there so it's good you mentioned it. Anyways, here is a website I found to help you with your next round of research:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com...ve-desert-180964452/

Hope this helps, and good luck!

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