Redwood trees in the forest behind Humboldt State University on Sept. 2. | Photo by Elise Fero

How the Redwoods are Battling Climate Change

While the rest of the planet suffers, what will become of the Redwood Forests?
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While the rest of the planet suffers, what will become of the Redwood Forests?

While climate change continues to cause destruction around the globe, scientists are finding hope in a local tree: The Giant Redwood, or Sequoiadendron giganteum.

The trees are currently in the midst of a growth spurt, producing more wood in the past century than any other time in their lives, according to Save The Redwoods League, a nonprofit organization who protect and restore the California redwood forests. Researchers from Humboldt State University, UC Berkeley, Natureserve, United States Geological Survey and Colorado State University are working alongside Save The Redwoods League to understand the growing trees and how they will continue to respond to climate change.

The Save The Redwoods League and HSU published findings concerning the impact of climate change in the recent research paper Aboveground biomass dynamics and growth efficiency of Sequoia sempervirens forests. They found that within the redwood forests, there are massive amounts of carbon sequestration. “Sequoia forests may be the most effective to [sequester carbon], because they accumulate more above ground biomass than any other vegetation, sustain higher rates of productivity than any other forest, and protect biomass produced via superlative fire- and decay-resistance.”

Carbon sequestration is “the capture and secure storage of carbon that would otherwise be emitted to, or remain, in the atmosphere,” according to Encyclopedia of Energy, 2004. This means carbon is trapped in forests, soil, or oceans for long periods of time instead of entering the atmosphere. It can be done naturally or artificially, and is becoming a researched effort to delay global warming which is caused by increase of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.

This is why scientists are so interested in the natural carbon sequestration of the redwood forests. While this seems to be good news, there is still much research to be done.

NASA scientists have started to create a global map of where carbon is being stored, and how much carbon is being released through deforestation. The redwood forest is only a tiny part of that map.

Humboldt State University Professor Steve Sillett has worked on the research with Save the Redwoods League.

“Redwoods can do little to fight climate change as they occupy a TINY proportion of the landscape,” Sillett said in an email. “Even though they are impressive in many respects, too little of the landscape is covered by them to make much difference at the global scale.”

While the redwoods alone cannot create a global change, scientists are continuing to research the storage of carbon in forests and what this means for the future of the planet.

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