California’s Deserts Are Starting to Lose All the Vegetation, New Study Explains

California’s Deserts Are Starting to Lose All the Vegetation, New Study Explains

New study shows California’s deserts’ current situation, and this is by far the worst-case scenario we’ve could see.

The vegetation in Anza-Borrego State Park (the biggest state park in California) is vanishing. And that’s not all. 

Researchers found that nothing is replacing the dying plants, and soon all the vegetation could die.

Here is what you need to know.

California’s Deserts are Struggling

The Anza-Borrego Desert isn’t the only one suffering vegetation loss. In recent years, many studies have found drought-related vegetation loss in the Sonoran Desert, too, which straddles California, Arizona, and some regions of Mexico.

However, researchers still couldn’t figure out how climate change might affect plants in dryland ecosystems.

New data

To better understand the Sonoran Desert’s situation, a team of researchers led by Stijn Hantson, a project scientist at the University of California, Irvine, came up with quite the technique.

They analyzed Landsat satellite data, searching for any spectral patterns in the Anzo-Borrego State park landscape. 

The results are genuinely intriguing yet shocking.

“The observed trends are consistent with the hypothesis that warming temperatures have caused a long-term increase in water limitation,” explain the researchers.


The results indicated a prevalent drop over the last four decades in perennial vegetation cover in lowland deserts. In this region, the creosote bush, mesquite, and other various cactus species reside.

Comparably lower losses were observed in elevation parts covered by pinyon woodlands, high desert vegetation, juniper, and montane woodlands. 

Furthermore, the researchers explain that the lowland desert areas might have already crossed an “ecological threshold.” And that happened just around the turn of the 21st century. 

Unfortunately, we still don’t know what’s there left for the dryland plants’ future. 

However, the signs are pretty much straightforward, and we should expect the worst-case scenario to occur: the complete disappearance of desert vegetation.

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