Rising Temps Put Desert Shrubs in High-Efficiency Mode


Data for this study came from two long-term research sites in the remote deserts of the American Southwest—one in Death Valley and the other near Oatman, Arizona.

Death Valley doesn’t seem like the most ideal place to ride out rising temperatures amid a changing climate. But for the desert plants that live there, it’s home—and they face the choice to adapt or die.

Research from the University of Utah shows that one shrub, the brittlebush, is adapting, and showing a remarkable ability to respond to increased temperature and aridity. The research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was funded by the National Science Foundation.

“We were able to directly relate changes in plant ecophysiology to changing climate over a relatively short timescale,” says study lead author and laboratory technician Avery Driscoll. “This shows us that desert shrubs can and do acclimate to changing environmental conditions.”

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Image via University of Utah