At least one tenth of the world’s mature giant sequoias were destroyed by a single california the wildfire that ripped through the south Sierra Nevada Last year, according to a draft report prepared by scientists National Park Service
The Visalia Times-delta The newspaper obtained a copy of the report that described the catastrophic destruction from the Castle Fire, which burned 273 square miles (707 sq km) of wood. Sequoia National Park
Researchers used satellite imagery and modeling from previous fires to determine that 7,500 to 10,000 redwoods were destroyed in the fires. This equates to 10% to 14% of the world’s mature giant sequoia population, the newspaper said.
“I cannot stress enough how mind-blowing this is for all of us. These trees have been alive for thousands of years. They are,” said Christy Brigham, head of resource management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Already dozens have survived wildfires.”
Forest managers said the consequences of losing large numbers of giant sequoias could be felt for decades. Redwood forests are among the most efficient forests in the world at removing and storing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The groves also provide important habitat for native wildlife and help protect the watersheds that supply farms and communities on the San Joaquin Valley floor.
Brigham, the study’s lead author, cautioned that the numbers are preliminary and the research paper has yet to be reviewed. Starting next week, the team of scientists will visit the groves where the fires have caused the most damage for the first time since the ash solidified.
“I have a vain hope that once we get off the ground the situation won’t be as bad, but that’s hope – it’s not science,” she said.
The amount of damage done to one of the world’s most treasured trees is remarkable because the sequoias themselves are incredibly well adapted to fire, the newspaper said. Old-growth trees – some of which are over 2,000 years old and 250 feet (76 m) tall – require fire to burst their pine cones and to reproduce.
“One hundred years of fire suppression combined with climate change-induced hot droughts have changed how fires burn in the southern Sierra and this change has been very bad for Sequoia,” Brigham said.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon have conducted controlled burning since the 1960s, averaging about a thousand acres per year. Brigham estimates that the park would need to burn about 30 times that number to bring the forest back to a healthy state.
On August 19, a fire broke out at the Castle in the Golden Trout Wilderness amid a flash of lightning. Shotgun fire, a much smaller fire burning nearby, was discovered shortly afterwards, and both were renamed the Sequoia Complex.
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