Op-Ed: With climate change, we may witness sequoia forests convert to chaparral over vast areas. Do we need these vast trees?
The largest sequoia stands of East and West have become vulnerable to climate change, driven by warming temperatures and increasing soil moisture that has led to the growth of invasive species. In fact, sequoia trees have been found to exhibit high resistance to invasion. This is not to say that they are without vulnerabilities. The most likely route for most invasive tree species is through humans. They can spread by growing slowly within the landscape. However, when introduced into new areas, they may not spread quickly and may die out.
The world-wide sequoia forests are unique among temperate forests in that they have been growing for approximately 500 million years, having been transported by glaciers as ice melted and they were deposited on the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. They are home to more species than any other forests worldwide. With more than 200 identified species of birds that live in the sequoia forests, the trees provide an important refuge and nesting grounds for many species.
There are currently some 663,100 old-growth sequoia forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with a total standing tree age of approximately 7.5 million years. They contain one of the most diverse plant communities on Earth, with more than 650 species of plants identified to date. There are sequoia forests in 30 states and Washington, D.C.
These forests of sequoia provide us with protection from the winds that can damage a forest. They make the Sierra Nevada Mountains and many other mountains and mountainsides famous for being some of the most photographed in the world. They provide important evidence of trees growing in ancient times, providing us with an ancient history of our ancestors.
But, because of our ignorance of the impacts of climate change, many of us are in danger of losing these ancient forests.
We would be foolish to allow them to be destroyed. We could be responsible for the destruction of species.
In my video “The Power of the Trees,” I outline a plan for the Sierra Nevada that will enable us to protect this unique