LAS VEGAS (AP) — Water officials have identified six species of trees and a dozen other plants commonly found in Las Vegas-area landscaping that could see extreme heat stress in 40 years as the climate warms.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority warns that even some desert flora with cooling properties could be impacted in the decades to come, the Las Vegas Sun reports.
“Nobody is necessarily saying that these plants are certain to perish, but we do know that they could be under increasing stress for a period of time, and it’s definitely something we should be aware of,” said Doug Bennett, the authority’s conservation manager.
The purple leaf plum tree, among the trees flagged by the authority, is non-native to the desert and typically doesn’t live long in southern Nevada, Bennett said.
The ash tree, which is seen throughout the Las Vegas area, and the elm trees, are favored for the shade the produce but are poorly suited for desert life and expected to fare worse under warming temperatures.
Bennett also cited Afghan pines, which are native to mountains of the Middle East and Afghanistan and are found throughout neighborhoods in the Las Vegas valley.
“It’s really well adapted to desert climates, but obviously it needs help when you move it onto the desert floor,” he said.
Other trees like the palo verde, which sprouts bright yellow leaves, and the blooming desert willow, have a high heat tolerance and are expected to fare well.
Bennett said while the warming temperatures may make it tougher for some plants to survive, others that struggle during Las Vegas’ cold winters may be able to thrive in coming decades.
“We have certain plants we weren’t able to grow in this Valley that would get frozen back by low winter temperatures,” Bennett said. “There’s some potential to bring plants on at the other end of the spectrum.”