Tag: cacti

Keep It Cool: What Desert Plants Can Teach Us About Climate Change

Climate change isn’t new. The earth’s organisms have faced the “cope, adapt, or die” paradigm presented by changing climatic conditions since the inception of life on earth more than 3 billion years ago.

Some species already live in extreme conditions (a topic I covered in my last blog post) – at the earth’s freezing poles in the dead of winter, at the apex of tropical mountain peaks that receive tens of meters of rainfall a year, and deep in the dry deserts that comprise a third of  the earth’s land area.

The plants and animals able to survive these extreme conditions may have something to teach us about climate change adaptation—especially when the organisms are incapable of crawling up to a cooler elevation or slithering into a deeper riverine pool to escape a heat wave.

As a general rule, plants spend their lives rooted to a single spot on the earth. So they need to be able to withstand 365 days per year of whatever nature can dish out in terms of weather.

Plants from hot deserts—such as the prickly cholla cactus—are no exception, and they have evolved a broad range of impressive strategies for coping with the hottest, driest climate in North America, where a years’ worth of rainfall may come in a single extreme event.

These desert denizens provide us with valuable insight into biological and physical adaptations that allow for survival on a hotter, drier planet that is subject to extreme events (as climate change experts are currently forecasting).

Full Article


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