100 Reasons Why Standing for the Redwoods is Standing for the Future
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Discover over 100 reasons why you should stand for the redwoods.
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With kids spending more than 25% of their waking hours on screens, they are missing the health and developmental benefits of interaction with nature. Every year, California’s redwood parks host student field trips, connecting tens of thousands of children with the outdoors and building long-term conservation constituencies.
California’s redwood forests filter trillions of gallons of water annually, providing clean and sustainable drinking water.
Redwood forests stabilize soil, preventing destructive erosion.
Every year, more than 31 million people visit our redwood parks and preserves, forging lifelong connections with the natural world.
Researchers and forest managers are developing techniques for the restoration of young redwood forests, assuring the revitalization of redwood ecosystems across the range of the species.
Redwood forest restoration requires citizen volunteers as well as trained researchers. Opportunities range from helping scientists with field observation and documentation to hands-on work maintaining trails and removing invasive plants.
Redwoods don’t just capture more carbon; they hang on to it. Old-growth redwoods are highly resistant to decay, meaning that even dead and fallen trees will store carbon for centuries or longer.
The only reason we have as many old-growth redwoods today is because the founders of the League took a principled stand 100 years ago. Today, the League is taking a similar position entering its second century, promoting an ambitious mission to restore redwood forests across their range.
Scientists have identified multiple ways to accelerate old-growth characteristics in younger forests, meaning previously clearcut forests can regain many of the ecological values of old-growth forests in sooner.
Mature redwood trees maintain entire ecosystems in their crowns that support a unique suite of vascular plants, lichens, fungi, vertebrates, invertebrates and microorganisms.
Big trees produce big fish. Healthy coast redwood forests minimize erosion and shade streams, providing the cold, clear water salmon and steelhead trout need to thrive and the clean gravel riffles they require for spawning. The relationship between the forest and fish is symbiotic. When spawning salmon die, their decomposing bodies provide nutrients to the trees and understory plants.
Save the Redwoods League and its partners are connecting old-growth redwood reserves with wildlife corridors, maximizing ecological value across vast landscapes.
Giant sequoia are restricted to 73 groves scattered along the west slope of California’s Sierra Nevada. Thanks to the work of early conservation groups — including the League — almost all of these groves are now under public protection.
Both giant sequoia and coast redwoods have thick, heavy bark, making them highly resistant to damage caused by wildfire.
A mature coast redwood forest is a forest that can generally withstand wildfires. Because the individual trees are protected from heavy fire damage by their thick bark and the forest as a whole tends to be cool and damp, fires typically creep along the forest floor instead of leaping into the canopies.
Introduced fire is an important tool in the restoration of young redwood forests. Under proper conditions, such prescriptive fire thins heavy stands of young trees to proper ratios and returns nutrients to the soil.
Due to their size, longevity and beauty, giant sequoia are popular horticultural trees. The tallest ornamental giant sequoia ever measure is a tree planted in 1856 in Ribeauville, France. When measured in 2014, it was 190 feet tall.
Relatives of the coast redwood and giant sequoia grew during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
The redwood parks are spectacular and affordable venues for family outings, providing opportunities for both day use and extended camping.
The redwood and giant sequoia forests are wonderful hands-on classrooms. The League annually sponsors field trips for urban students to the redwood parks, providing many youngsters with their first significant nature experience.
Many of our redwood parks are located close to major cities, affording a near-wilderness experience for harried urbanites.
Rural communities benefit from proximity to redwood preserves and parks. Coast redwoods and giant sequoia are a major attraction, and visitors help sustain local economies.
Mature redwood forests are home to a variety of highly imperiled species, including marbled murrelets, northern spotted owls and fishers.
Both coast redwoods and giant sequoia are excellent birding venues. Mature redwood forests, young redwood forests and giant sequoia groves each support specific suites of migratory and resident birds. Coastal redwood parks are also good places for spotting seabirds and shorebirds.
Save the Redwoods League sponsors a wide range of grants to scientists conducting critical work on redwood forest conservation and restoration.
The National Park Service, California State Parks and Save the Redwoods League are collaborating on Redwoods Rising, a project that will accelerate the recovery of cut-over forests and protect old-growth groves in Redwood National and State Parks.
Coast redwood trees like it wet, which is why they grow faster and get taller in the cool, rainy coastal zone of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties than in the southernmost portion of their range (Big Sur).
The crowns of giant sequoia provide resting and breeding habitat to many species of bats.
Giant sequoia reproduce exclusively by seed. Their close relatives, coast redwoods, likewise germinate from seed, but also reproduce by sprouting from the base of mature trees and stumps.
Women played a major role in the early battles to save the redwoods. The Humboldt County Federation of Women’s Clubs petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for a redwood national park in 1908, and worked closely with Save the Redwoods League founders to establish the first redwood preserves and parks.
Climate change could have major impacts on coast redwoods and giant sequoia. In response, Save the Redwoods League has launched the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative, a long-term study to track the impacts of climate change and help us identify where the best climate refuges will be for redwoods and giant sequoia.
Like animals, trees are affected by hormones. One such hormone, auxin, is produced at the uppermost tip of a growing tree. Auxin inhibits treetop growth, ensuring branches in the mid-crown region receive sufficient sunlight to thrive. Without auxin, redwood trees would not grow anywhere close to their height.
Redwoods are only part of the botanical story in a coast redwood forest. The understory — the plants that grow beneath the canopies, and include such species as rhododendrons, sword ferns, trillium and redwood sorrel — form a dynamic ecological community that lives in close symbiosis with the great trees.
Along with imperiled endemic species such as marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls, the redwood forest supports numerous other charismatic native species, including black bear, black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, cougar, bobcat and a wide array of songbirds, raptors, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
Redwood enthusiasts can get free day-use passes to over 40 redwood parks on Free Second Saturdays in Redwood State Parks throughout 2018. This program is funded by the members of Save the Redwoods League, and is part of an initiative to lower barriers to redwood park visitation and enjoyment.
Saving and restoring the redwood forests isn’t just about saving redwoods. It’s about healing damaged ecosystems on a landscape scale. A healthy forest anchors soil, purifies water and air, provides abundant wildlife habitat and helps mitigate climate change.
Though redwoods are associated with great age and size, it would be a mistake to assume they are slow-growing. Coast redwoods are among the world’s fastest growing conifers, and can achieve impressive heights and girths in a few decades.
Coast redwood trees were an essential building material for coastal First Nations people. The Tolowa and Yurok used redwood slabs and bark for their lodges, and several tribes fashioned canoes from redwood logs for intercoastal fishing, hunting and trading. Some native families used fire cavities in ancient redwoods as shelters. In the early 20th Century, a surviving member of the Lolangkok Sinkyone people stated that he was born in a fire cavity in what is now Humboldt Redwoods State Park. As recently as the late 19th Century, native families lived in tree hollows in land that is now part of Redwood National Park.
Albino redwood trees exist. A rare genetic mutation in some sprouts results in foliage that ranges from deep yellow to white. To date, more than 100 albino redwood sites have been identified.
Sometimes it’s hard to get away to the redwood forest, but that doesn’t mean a visit is impossible. Save the Redwoods League supports a live webcam of the Smith River in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, allowing anyone to log in for a real-time virtual experience.
The redwood forest tends to inspire creative urges in any and all visitors. Shutterbugs can share their redwood forest images with the world at large through the League’s Flickr group(external link).
Save the Redwoods League enlists volunteers for essential redwood and giant sequoia research through its Citizen Science program. Participants help League researchers collect data to inform redwood conservation, restoration and climate change.
League scientists have determined that western sword ferns are a prime climate change indicator in coast redwood forests, and are now actively monitoring sword ferns through the redwood range.
One way to track climate change is by recording shifts in the responses of plants and animals to the seasons. Known as phenology, this “science of the seasons” is a critical component of redwood research. League scientists are monitoring seasonal shifts in the redwood forest through its Redwoods Phenology Project.
Though they are protected by law, threats to established redwood parks and reserves continue. They include illegal logging and marijuana cultivation, and development in adjacent lands. Monitoring of protected forests and protection of contiguous lands is therefore essential.
Foresters and sustainable timber producers are essential partners in redwood conservation and restoration. Rehabilitating logged-over lands requires intensive management, including the thinning of some trees. Such work provides jobs and valuable timber, strengthens ties with local communities and accelerates old-growth characteristics in younger forests.
Both coast redwoods and giant sequoia are members of the cypress family, a large group of trees that includes cypresses and junipers.
Giant sequoia can live for thousands of years, but they’re not invulnerable. They need well-drained soil to survive, and their shallow root system is highly sensitive to soil compaction. Even excessive foot traffic near the trunk can threaten a tree’s survival.
While ancient coast redwood forests store more carbon in their trees’ trunks and limbs than any other forest ecosystem on Earth, carbon sequestration isn’t restricted to above-ground growth. The roots and soils also bank vast amounts of carbon.
Redwood forests can resist many invasive species. Argentine ants have invaded every ecosystem in California except for the redwood forest. The pesky and destructive ants, it turns out, can’t abide chemicals (known as terpenes) that are produced in redwood needles.
One of the most beautiful plants on the redwood forest floor is redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregano), a species that appears to wilt in full sunlight. This isn’t the actual case; the shade-loving plant folds its delicate, clover-like leaflets downward in a protective response when exposed to excessive light, avoiding sunburn.
Trillium, a beautiful and distinctive plant of the redwood forest understory, employs a sophisticated propagation strategy. Its seeds are wrapped in a fleshy and appetizing coating called an elaiosome. Both ants and yellowjackets will collect and move the seeds, eating the elaiosome but not the seed itself, which later sprouts.
May and June are the best months to view blossoming rhododendrons and azaleas in the redwood forest. During the bloom, these understory shrubs carpet the floor of many redwood groves in intense, multicolored displays.
Many visitors to the coast redwood forest encounter banana slugs (Ariolimax columbianus), the largest slug in North America and the second largest in the world. These gargantuan terrestrial mollusks, that can live for up to seven years, secrete a thick slime that aids them in crawling, deters predators and prevents desiccation. They build soil by breaking down plant materials.
Redwood trees are an important food source for black bears (Ursus americanus). Bruins strip bark from young redwoods to get at the sugar-rich cambium, a thin layer of living cells that produces wood.
The coast redwood forest supports a number of amphibians, including the rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulose), which lives in streams, springs and the forest floor. Its skin secretes a strong toxin.
The California giant salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus) is one of only two salamanders in the world that vocalizes. Distinctive for its large size and spotted skin, this amphibian is found in the redwood forests of Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa and Santa Cruz counties.
Another amphibious resident of the coast redwood forest floor is the tailed frog, an ancient frog species.
Named after renowned naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, Humboldt’s flying squirrel is a particularly charming denizen of the redwood forest. This diminutive squirrel has a specialized anatomy uniquely suited for gliding through the redwood canopy. A parachute-like membrane known as a patagium stretches between their arms and legs, allowing them to soar from one tree to another.
Citizen scientists can perform their own research in the redwood forest by performing a transect — walking a sharply delineated route through a portion of forest while taking notes on all observed plants and animals. Such techniques help shape highly accurate biological forest assays. Save the Redwoods League provides downloadable transect instructions to help young researchers get started.
The upper crowns of mature redwood trees accumulate dead leaves and other detritus that ultimately forms a rich soil, supporting a variety of plants that typically grow on the ground. This includes rhododendrons, large shrubs that display extravagant and colorful blossoms in late spring.
Though redwood trees are classified as evergreens, they do shed old leaves that are no longer capable of photosynthesis. These are usually visible as orange foliage on the underside of the branches before most of them fall in autumn.
When giant sequoia cones are viewed from the bottom end, a spiral shape to the cones’ scales is immediately evident. This is a manifestation of the Fibonacci sequence, a spiral pattern that is common in nature, appearing in everything from the shape of snail shells to the configuration of storms and breaking waves.
Pikas, diminutive mammals that live at high elevations and are threatened due to climate change, inhabit regions near the Sierra Nevada’s giant sequoia groves.
Redwoods can be found near the Rocky Mountains — fossilized redwoods, that is. Roughly 34 million years ago, a close relative of coast redwood and giant sequoia flourished in the interior West. A fossilized “fairy ring” composed of the partial trunks of three of these trees was discovered near Florissant, Colorado.
The redwood forest is a partnership composed of myriad plants, animals, bacteria and fungi. All these disparate forms of life forge complex symbiotic relationships that strengthen and gain in resilience as the forest matures.
Redwood forests support “mycotrophs,” rare flowers that rely on fungi for sustenance. The roots of these blooming plants intermingle with mycorrhizal fungi, absorbing sugar and other nutrients. Among this group is the red snow plant, a species that displays dramatic, heavy spikes of bright crimson flowers.
Unlike every other state, California has two state trees: the coast redwood and giant sequoia. The coast redwood was designated in 1937. The authorizing legislation was amended in 1953, adding the giant sequoia.
Commercial logging of the redwood forests began shortly after the advent of the 1849 Gold Rush, and accelerated through the mid-20th Century. By the 1960s, only a small percentage of the old-growth forest remained. Today, Save the Redwoods League and its partners have protected most surviving old-growth stands, and are dedicating increasing resources to the restoration of younger forests.
Save the Redwoods League has protected more than 200,000 acres of redwood forests and critical associated lands — roughly an area the size of New York City.
A particularly fascinating denizen of the redwood forest understory is the pitcher plant (Darlingtonia), a carnivorous plant that typically grows in poor soils. Pitcher plants supplement their nutrients with insects that are attracted to, trapped and digested by specialized pitcher-like leaves. These plants are found along the Smith River just north of Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
To survive, giant sequoia require tremendous volumes of water, much of which comes from spring snowmelt. Most climate change models predict decreasing snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, so League scientists are working on strategies to protect giant sequoia through the coming decades and expected warmer, drier conditions.
The ages for most trees are calculated by counting the growth rings in their trunks. Using this technique, the age of the oldest known coast redwood tree has been established at 2,500 years.
Many giant sequoia are even older than the most venerable coast redwood, and range in age from 2,000 to 3,000 years. The oldest known giant sequoia is more than 3,500 years old.
Forest managers and researchers use a variety of methods to restore redwood forests and associated ecosystems, including mechanical thinning and prescription fire. Other methods such as tree planting, road retirement, culvert installation, mowing forest prairies to mimic the grazing activities of wild herbivores and invasive plant removal also are employed.
Under natural conditions, giant sequoia seeds germinate in forest openings created by wildfires. But intensive fire suppression policies over the past century have resulted in a heavy, brushy understory that inhibits seed germination. The careful use of prescribed fire can reverse this trend, creating the sunlit open areas giant sequoia need for regeneration.
While giant sequoia lumber is considered too brittle for most commercial uses, some logging of the ancient groves did occur. Today, however, the greatest threats to these magnificent trees are from catastrophic fire and creeping real estate development, not timber operations.
The northernmost existing grove of giant sequoia is located near the Middle Fork of the American River in the Tahoe National Forest; it contains only six trees.
As it has since its inception, Save the Redwoods League pursues its mandate across a broad front. The League has engaged in 20 major acquisition, restoration and research initiatives since 2012, ranging from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Redwood National and State Parks, and along the scattered giant sequoia groves of the Sierra Nevada.
There’s a lot to see in Redwood and Giant Sequoia Country, and formulating an itinerary can be challenging. To aid visitors, the Save the Redwoods League website features an interactive map that provides information on redwood and giant sequoia properties, including tips on available activities.
Old-growth redwood forests serve as long-term, passive carbon storage systems, removing and storing ever-increasing amounts of carbon from the atmosphere throughout their long lives.
The sugi, the national tree of Japan, is in the same family as the coast redwood and is often planted near shrines and temples.
The alerce, also in the same family as the coast redwood, grows in the cool temperate rainforests of southern Chile; it’s among the world’s longest-lived and slowest-growing trees.
Martens are small, cryptic predators that depend on old-growth forests for survival; ancient redwood forests are ideal habitat for these secretive and beautiful animals. Researchers have discovered that marten habitat can be enhanced by planting understory shrubs such as rhododendron and evergreen huckleberry, removing unnecessary roads and installing “rest boxes” that provide shelter and vantage points.
Giant sequoia have bright red bark, making them stand out from the surrounding woodlands. This visual effect can be particularly dramatic following snowfall in the Sierra Nevada.
Coast redwoods and giant sequoia are uniquely suited to resist fungal diseases, insect infestations and decay due to certain chemicals known as terpenes produced in their leaves, branches and bark.
Though coast redwoods typically grow tall, straight and true, they can be influenced by natural forces — particularly wind. This is particularly evident at The Enchanted Forest in the Shady Dell preserve, where strong, consistent winds have twisted redwoods into striking candelabra-like shapes.
Coast redwoods are the tallest living things on Earth, but their seeds are minute. A typical redwood cone is about one-inch-long and contains 14 to 24 seeds, each no larger than a tomato seed. There are roughly 100,000 redwood seeds in a pound. And while a single tree may produce millions of seeds a year, only a small percentage germinate and reach the seedling stage.
Coast redwood and giant sequoia forests support several species of woodpeckers. These birds, in turn, augment habitat for a wide range of other avian species by pecking holes that can serve as nesting sites. Studies indicate that woodpeckers create more than 75 percent of the tree cavities used by nesting North American birds.