We recently toured the site of the 2017 Pier Fire in the Black Mountain Grove, part of the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Giant sequoia are remarkably fire resistant, so it was unusual to find at least 50 monarch trees (sequoia greater than three feet in diameter) that were killed here. Although historically frequent fires resulted in the death of some of these giants from time to time, the staggering number killed in the Pier Fire is likely a new phenomenon. We’re studying this site to help determine the factors that led to such high mortality rates, which in turn can inform future conservation strategies. The warming climate is likely playing a role, as is the increase in tree densities and woody debris as a result of over a century of fire exclusion. This fire highlights the urgent need for restoration to restore fire resilience in giant sequoia.
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