Climate change threatens Saguaro cactus – Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky 2022-05-19 23:11:05 –

Every spring, the iconic Saguaro cactus approaches various parts of Arizona.

The thorny mysterious giant grows in the desolate Sonoran Desert, which covers southern Arizona and northern Mexico, but can be at risk.

Daniel Winkler, a research ecologist at the US Geological Survey, said he was concerned about the future of the landscape. In the photos he fears, there will be less Saguaro.

“The rate of climate change has already exceeded potential ecological turning points that we do not understand,” Winkler said.

The National Weather Service recorded 2020 as the driest year in Tascon. That same year, August took the title as the warmest month on record at 92 degrees Celsius, and it is expected to be hotter than usual this year.

Tucson is home to Saguaro National Park.

“Saguaro has evolved to cope with typical desert conditions and days above 100 degrees Celsius,” Winkler said. “What we really don’t understand is, as we see, whether they can tolerate the abundance of 100 degree days.”

Winkler says that the severe long-term drought that much of the Southwest has experienced over the past few decades has also adversely affected the population of Saguaro, especially in national parks.

“What we see is that the number of young, new individuals in the population has dropped dramatically from historical levels,” Winkler said.

According to the 2020 Saguaro Census, the number of Saguaro in national parks almost doubled to 2 million between 1990 and 2020, but in 2010 seeds began to hit the wall and only a slight increase. It was not detected.

Winkler says recent studies show that stress prevents plants from surviving into adulthood.

Weather is just one factor that puts cactus species at risk

“As buffalo grass spreads throughout our national park, we are seeing an increase in wildfire epidemics,” Winkler said.

In 2020, a big horn fire in Arizona burned about 120,00 acres and destroyed hundreds of saguaro cacti.

“We know at least 200 other species of flora and fauna that are completely dependent on the presence of Saguaro for their survival,” Winkler said.

As it gets hotter and drier, the fear of the classics loved throughout Metro Phoenix grows.

A few years ago, Scott Bertelt says he began to notice that his neighbor, Saguaro, was corrupt and dead.

“I think it’s a bacterium, necrosis, and you can see it eating up the plants,” Bertelt said.

Bartelt has taken more than 200 photos of Saguaro and recorded the findings of the Desert Botanical Garden’s first Metro Phoenix Census iNaturalist app launched this month.

Hundreds of volunteers have applied to evaluate Saguaro.

Desert Botanical Garden research scientist Tania Hernandez says everything shows climate change, but she suspects that urban illness and human pollution may also play a role.

“I don’t know if it’s a natural process,” says Hernandez. “There is serious damage to this stem. This can be due to two extreme sun damages.”

She hopes to help find answers before it’s too late, as the census is scheduled to be held annually in May each year.

Winkler says scientists like himself are making research and conservation efforts to help protect the thorny giant for future generations.

“The number of Saguaro in our national park seems to be declining, probably due to a long-term drought,” Winkler said. “I’m disappointed because I know that places I love, or places I like to study or recreate during my vacation, may not look like this in the near future. “

The next Saguaro Census, held in 2030, will clearly explain to scientists whether the iconic giant can withstand the heat of Arizona and the threat of potential fires.

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