Climate change may force California endemic plants to migrate or die
Climate change is expected to significantly affect California’s endemic plants over the next century as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS One. Up to two-thirds of the state’s unique plants could be wiped out in their current ranges by century’s end and will have to move to cooler areas in order to survive — either northward or higher in elevation. “In some of these cases, for example when a plant grows near the top of a mountain, there’s nowhere to go,” said researcher Katharine Hayhoe. About half of the plant species that are unique to the contiguous United States live only in California, so the predicted native-plant crisis there is significant. “In nearly every scenario we explored, biodiversity suffers — especially if the flora can’t disperse fast enough to keep pace with climate change,” said ecologist Scott Loarie. By the end of the century, the study predicts that the Central Valley may become the primary habitat for Sonoran Desert plants, and even the giant coast redwoods may be forced farther north.