High above the sprawling city, the heat from rooftops and roads casts a shimmering haze mirrored by the ocean beyond. Here, rising above the oak and bay forest, its trunk twisted and scarred by centuries of wind and fire, it stands alone. It is the last ancient redwood of the East Bay.
Why is this tree still here? Its relatively small size (at 93 feet, it is not even a quarter of the height of the tallest redwood, Hyperion) and location (growing from a boulder on a steep slope) meant that the tree was passed over during the wave of logging that took place during the second half of the 19th century, and is now all that is left of a once-extensive forest of ancient redwood that grew in the East Bay hills. Even though this forest is near the edge of the range of redwoods, and is isolated from the major redwood populations north and south of the bay by over 20 miles, it was once home to some of the most enormous trees on earth – surpassing (if the size of their stumps is any indication) even the giants currently growing today in the northern parks. Two of these trees were even used as landmarks for ship captains navigating the treacherous bay waters. Much of the forest has regrown where the land has been protected in parks such as Redwood Regional Park, and the young forest that stands there seems at once both sad and hopeful. Despite the general warming trend seen across the redwood region, the East Bay hills represent an anomaly; the temperature here is remaining relatively stable even in the face of local change. The young trees that serve as a poignant reminder of a forest lost may also be those best located to avoid some of the most severe consequences of a warming world.
This lonely redwood, and the forest that once surrounded it, were recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle along with our own intrepid Director of Science, Emily Burns. Check out the article here: http://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/Hidden-redwood-is-remnant-of-forest-giants-4493517.php.