If current global warming trends continue here is a list of things can happen:
- Joshua trees could be eradicated from Joshua Tree National Park.
- In national parks in mountain areas across the West, higher temperatures are likely to sharply reduce the presence of meadows and wildflowers.
- The characteristic plant cover of many national parks across the West may change, with forests pushed upslope to mountain tops, one type of forest replacing another, and grasslands replacing forests. More invasive plant species are also likely to spread farther into western national parks, causing environmental and economic damage.
- Unnatural increases in the frequency and severity of wildfires could imperil some natural resources, perhaps even threatening the existence of giant saguaro cacti in Saguaro National Park.
- Wildlife species are likely to be pushed into extinction, either completely or locally in particular parks. Especially vulnerable are mountaintop species, including ptmarmigan (grouse-like birds), pikas (small alpine mammals), and desert bighorn sheep.
- Climate change can have complex, cascading effects on natural resources in western national parks. For example, by ending the extreme cold that is the natural check on populations of mountain bark beetles, global warming is enabling them to infest whitebark pines, a high-altitude tree species previously out of their range. With no natural defenses to the beetles, whitebark pines could face extinction, robbing grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park of one of their most important food sources and creating yet another hurdle to the long-term survival of the bears-the living symbol of the West’s wildness.