SciSun: Lookin’ good for their age   Leave a comment

Within a narrow zone along the Northern California coast and extending slightly into southern Oregon, live some of the oldest species alive. These are not elephants, nor a type of bird, nor even that ‘world’s oldest grandma’ reported on the news – these are the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Some of these individual trees are about 2,000 years old, meaning when they were just little saplings, in most of the world the cities, and how people lived, and the environment were all different that what we know today. No one thought of things like cars or videos or space travel and the closest thing to social networking was a group of people sitting around a table talking. Things have certainly changed for us, but not so much for the giant trees who have been living (probably without even knowing things have changed) deep in the forest. In fact, they are the forest!

And this forest is full of life. Not just these extreme trees – some over 300 feet tall (that’s the height of a 30 storey building!), and up to 24 feet in diameter (as wide as a two lane highway), but also all the animals and other plants that depend on the trees for their home: Feathery-ferns; herbs, lilac, grape and honeysuckle; spruce, fir and maple; huckleberry, gooseberry and berries of all types.  Wildlife such as owls, fox, elk and hummingbirds live in the moist, moderate climate created by the Redwoods, while salmon swim in the streams and the oddly fascinating Pacific Giant Salamander (genus Dicamptodon) and bright yellow Banana Slug (genus Ariolimax) fill their roles in the environment. Even high in the tree canopy live squirrels, chipmunks, worms, Jays and other life.

Redwood NPS Prairy creek NPS

The importance of experiencing something bigger than yourself

Scientists estimate that thousands of years ago, Redwood forests covered over 2 million acres of the Pacific Coast. Over time the naturally-moderate climate of heavy winter rains and dense summer fog was further adapted by the trees to create their perfect living environment; the trees can even create their own ‘rain’ in the dry summer by capturing moisture in their high branches and showering the plants and animals below. But within the past 200 years, the wants and needs of modern man has put severe stress on the trees and their forest environment. Logging cut down many of the oldest and largest trees (often destroying other trees in the process and leaving the smaller logs behind as ‘waste’); air and water pollution created a toxic atmosphere for the trees to breathe; people have cut back the forest to make room for buildings and development. Even today, there are plans to slice through the roots and branches of some of the largest trees to widen and re-route a highway so large trucks can drive through more easily. Local Native American Indians, scientists and researchers, and friends-of-the-redwood organizations are working to prevent further destruction of these ancient trees and their environment, and it’s up to us and all who care about our natural environment to speak up for species that may old, but still don’t have a voice of their own.

Grow tall by learning more about Redwood Forests:

http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/california_hotspot/habitat_redwoods.htm

http://magazine.humboldt.edu/fall09/tallest-trees-unveiled/

http://www.nps.gov/redw/index.htm

Posted May 6, 2012 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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