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 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 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).
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).
This is a plant before and after extensive ozone exposure.
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).
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).
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!