Mojave National Preserve
About the Park
Mojave National Preserve, a vast desert wonderland of 1.6 million acres located in eastern California, was created by the 1994 California Desert Protection Act when citizens and elected officials recognized that the land had unique scenic, scientific, educational and recreational values. Within the park boundaries lie crenulated mountains, singing sand dunes, the largest and densest Joshua tree forest in the world, and an amazing array of plants and animals.
Climate change will affect the desert ecosystem represented in Mojave National Preserve. A basic ecological tenet is that most species perform best in a fairly specific environment, temperature-wise. The increases in temperatures likely to cause many desert animals stress, affecting animals’ metabolic energy intake and expending energy outside their temperature comfort zones. Plants will doubtlessly be affected by higher air temperatures which will cause an increase in evapotranspiration and variable precipitation.
Another area of concern is how organisms will respond to changes in plant and animal life cycles due to climate change. Climate change may disrupt ancient natural relationships like the one between flowering plants and their pollinators, such as plant blooming earlier and missing the adult phase of a crucial bee or fly pollinator. Such an ecological mismatch would result in failed reproduction — no fruit or seeds — for the plant. Changes in temperature and precipitation could also cause shrubs to germinate earlier, fruit later and grow later in the season. A change in the phenology of plants due to climate change will affect many animal species. Along the Colorado River corridor, changes to the timing of mesquite flowering might impact migrating birds that prey on insects attracted by the flowering mesquite. Here in the Mojave, a change in the life cycle of plants could affect the desert tortoise, a threatened herbivore that subsists largely on annual wildflowers.
Finally, the park’s mountain front springs or perched aquifers are highly susceptible to climate change. Many of these springs respond fairly rapidly to changes in precipitation and increased evaporation rates. Park data indicate that many of these springs would go dry during an extended drought. In the event of a drought or succession of droughts, loss of these small wetlands could severely impact native biota.
The Climate Friendly Parks Action Plan identifies steps that Mojave National Preserve can undertake to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate its impact on climate change. The plan presents the Park’s emission reduction goals, and associated reduction actions to achieve the Park’s goals. Strategies and action plan items were developed by working groups at the Mojave Desert and Mediterranean Coast Climate Friendly Parks Workshop.
Greenhouse gas emissions result from the combustion of fossil fuels for transportation and energy (e.g., boilers, electricity generation), the decomposition of waste and other organic matter, and the volatilization or release of gases from various other sources (e.g., fertilizers and refrigerants).
In 2008, GHG emissions within Mojave National Preserve totaled 6,271 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E), which are calculated using the CLIP tool section of the Climate Friendly Parks Program. This includes emissions from park and concessioner operations and visitor activities, including vehicle use within the park. By comparison, a typical single family home in the U.S. produces approximately 11 MTCO2 per year (U.S. EPA, Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculators – Calculations and References, Retrieved, Website: http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html). Thus, the combined emissions from Park and concessioner operations and visitor activities within the Park are roughly equivalent to the emissions from the electricity use of 580 households each year.
The graph below, taken from our Action Plan, shows our Park Operations and Visitor Use Emissions in 2008 broken down into sectors.
Mojave National Preserve has committed to:
- Increase onsite renewable energy sources.
- Reduce emissions from stationary and purchased sources.
- Reduce waste.
- Reduce mobile sources of emissions from Park operations.
To read more about what we are doing at Mojave National Preserve about climate change, check out our Action Plan!