Solar growth clashes with endangered species habitat — study

By Jack Quinn | 03/27/2024 06:45 AM EDT

Scientists examined how expanding California solar farms may interfere with protections for the Joshua tree and San Joaquin kit fox.

Joshua trees stand in Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua trees stand in Joshua Tree National Park near Twentynine Palms, California. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Solar energy expansion in California may accelerate the decline of some endangered species if projects fail to account for shifting ranges of plants and wildlife, according to a new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The study published this month in the journal Nature Climate Change found that if all announced solar energy projects in California are completed, it would directly lead to the loss of 1.7 percent of the future habitat of the Joshua tree and 3.9 percent of the habitat of the San Joaquin kit fox by 2070.

Still, climate change will account for approximately 20 times more habitat loss by 2070 for both species than solar energy expansion, the researchers found.


“This study describes how we need to use more renewable energy to fight climate change, but it also warns us that as we expand renewable energy, we are going to overlap with biodiversity hotspots,” said Uzma Ashraf, a postdoctoral scholar with the UC Davis Wild Energy Center and the lead author of the study, in a press release.