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Picture of the Day

Kangaroo rat populations take dive in response to drought

The Carrizo Plain National Monument is a little-known ecological hotspot in Southern California. Though small, it explodes in wildflowers each spring and is full of threatened or endangered species. A long-term study tracked how hundreds of species in this valley fared during the historic drought that struck California from 2012 to 2015. It shows surprising winners and losers, uncovering patterns that may be relevant for climate change. By studying this natural laboratory for many years, researchers found that drought actually helped ecological underdogs by stressing the dominant species. Giant kangaroo rats were common on the Carrizo Plain until the third year of the drought, when more than 90 percent of the population died off. Since the drought ended in 2015, the Carrizo Plain ecosystem has bounced back and the giant kangaroo rat population has also recovered.

Visit Website | Image credit: John Roser