JavaScript

This website requires the use of Javascript to function correctly. Performance and usage will suffer if it remains disabled.
Study: California Fire Killed 10 Percent of World’s Giant Sequoias

Real Truth logo

World News Desk

Study: California Fire Killed 10 Percent of World’s Giant Sequoias

Learn the why behind the headlines.

Subscribe to the Real Truth for FREE news and analysis.

Subscribe Now

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, California (AP) – At least a tenth of the world’s mature giant sequoia trees were destroyed by a single California wildfire that tore through the southern Sierra Nevada last year, according to a draft report prepared by scientists with the National Park Service.

The Visalia Times-Delta newspaper obtained a copy of the report that describes catastrophic destruction from the Castle Fire, which charred 273 square miles of timber in Sequoia National Park.

Researchers used satellite imagery and modeling from previous fires to determine that between 7,500 and 10,000 of the towering species perished in the fire. That equates to 10 to 14 percent of the world’s mature giant sequoia population, the newspaper said.

“I cannot overemphasize how mind-blowing this is for all of us. These trees have lived for thousands of years. They’ve survived dozens of wildfires already,” said Christy Brigham, chief of resources management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The consequences of losing large numbers of giant sequoias could be felt for decades, forest managers said. Redwood and sequoia forests are among the world’s most efficient at removing and storing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The groves also provide critical habitat for native wildlife and help protect the watershed that supplies farms and communities on the San Joaquin Valley floor.

Dr. Brigham, the study’s lead author, cautioned that the numbers are preliminary and the research paper has yet to be peer reviewed. Beginning next week, teams of scientists will hike to the groves that experienced the most fire damage for the first time since the ashes settled.

“I have a vain hope that once we get out on the ground the situation won’t be as bad, but that’s hope—that’s not science,” she said.

The newspaper said the extent of the damage to one of the world’s most treasured trees is noteworthy because the sequoias themselves are incredibly well adapted to fire. The old-growth trees—some of which are more than 2,000 years old and 250 feet tall—require fire to burst their pine cones and reproduce.

“One-hundred years of fire suppression, combined with…hotter droughts, have changed how fires burn in the southern Sierra and that change has been very bad for sequoia,” Dr. Brigham said.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon have conducted controlled burns since the 1960s, about a thousand acres a year on average. Dr. Brigham estimates that the park will need to burn around 30 times that number to get the forest back to a healthy state.

The Castle Fire erupted on August 19 in the Golden Trout Wilderness amid a flurry of lightning strikes. The Shotgun Fire, a much smaller blaze burning nearby, was discovered shortly afterward, and the two were renamed the Sequoia Complex.

 
  • Articles
  • WEATHER & ENVIRONMENT
Wildfires: Why Is Each Season Worse than the Last?
Conditions are ripe for a fire season that is expected to be even worse than last year’s record-shattering one.


FREE Email Subscription (sent weekly)


Contact Information This information is required.

Comments or Questions? – Receive a Personal Response! Field below is optional.



Send

Your privacy is important to us. The email address above will be used for correspondence and free offers from The Restored Church of God. We will not sell, rent or give your personal information to any outside company or organization.

Latest News

View All Articles View All World News Desk