Monday, November 29, 2021

Post-fire hope: tiny sequoias could turn into giants

SEQUOYA CROSS, California – Ashtin Perry was barely the height of a shovel she stomped into the barren land, where a wildfire last year devastated California’s Sequoia Cross mountain community and destroyed dozens of its characteristic giant trees.

The 13-year-old girl with a wide smile and slanting to the waist had a higher goal, which – if successful – she would never live up to: planting a sequoia cub that could grow into a giant and live for millennia.

“It’s really great to know that in a thousand years it could be a big tree,” she said.

Karissa Roser, reproduction specialist of the Archangel of the Ancients of the Archangel Tree, is planting a sequoia.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

The bright green sapling, barely reaching Perry’s knees, is part of an unusual project to plant offspring from some of the largest and oldest trees on the planet to see if the genes that allowed the parent to survive for so long can protect the new growth from the dangers of the climate. the change.

The effort by the Arkhangelsk Archive of Ancient Trees, a Michigan-based non-profit organization that preserves the genetics of old-growth trees, is one of many extraordinary measures being taken to save giant sequoias that were once considered nearly fire safe but could now be destroyed by more intense wildfires.

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The giant sequoia is the largest tree in the world by volume and is closely related to the sequoia, the tallest in the world. Redwoods only grow naturally in the 260-mile forest belt on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. They have massive trunks and can grow over 300 feet. Coastal mahogany is thinner and native to the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.

Mountaineering assistant Laurence Schultz climbs a sequoia

Mountaineering assistant Lawrence Schultz climbs the Three Sisters on a sequoia planting expedition at Sequoia Crest.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Giant sequoias and sequoias are some of the best fire-tolerant plants. Thick bark protects their trunks, and canopies can be so high that they are inaccessible to fire. Redwoods even rely on fire to open their buds and scatter seeds, and fire cleans the underbrush so that the seedlings can take root and receive sunlight.

In recorded history, large sequoias were never burned until 2015. The destruction of the majestic trees reached unprecedented levels last year, with 10% to 14% of an estimated 75,000 trees over 4 feet in diameter burned. Thousands more potentially died this year in wildfires, which burned out 27 groves – about a third of all groves.

According to an initial estimate released Tuesday by the Sequoia National Forest, the fire in the wind has killed hundreds of giant sequoias and many more burned trees may not survive. Scientists are still calculating damage in nearby Sequoia National Park from another fire caused by lightning.

Trees scorched by forest fires on a snowy hillside

Trees scorched by forest fires grow on the slope of Sequoia Cross.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Tom Wall and Rachel Leitz in jackets plant a tree on snowy ground

Tom Wall and Rachel Leitz, volunteers of the Archangel of Ancient Trees, plant a sequoia seedling.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Rip Tomkins sits at the top of a tree and collects cuttings.

Rip Tomkins collects cuttings from the crown of a sequoia.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Two people with shovels in a snowy landscape

Kimi Green (left) and Karissa Roser walk through the snow planting sequoia seedlings.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Springville Primary School students gather around a newly planted sequoia seedling.

Springville Primary School students gather around a newly planted sequoia seedling on an expedition to plant the Arkhangelsk Ancient Trees Archive.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Tom Wall sits in front of the sapling and plays the guitar

Tom Wall, a volunteer for the Archangel of the Ancient Trees, plays the guitar for a redwood sapling shortly after planting it.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Ashin Perry touches a giant sequoia with his left hand

Ashin Perry touches the Three Sisters sequoia tree during a planting expedition.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

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