By Wendy Baxter
After the fourth consecutive year of severe drought in California, a team of scientists came together in the summer of 2015 to study the impacts of the historic drought on the world’s largest trees, the giant sequoias. Within Sequoia National Park lies the largest giant sequoia grove, Giant Forest. People from around the world travel to this majestic forest growing upon uplifted granite on the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Few who make the pilgrimage to walk amongst these ancient trees leave unimpressed. Their longevity, resilience, size and beauty remind us of our impermanence, yet inspire us to ensure the continued reign of these Sierra giants for generations to come.
The National Park Service (NPS) assembled the team of scientists from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, United States Geological Survey and the University of California at Berkeley to study the trees from their leaves all the way up to the entire landscape. Coordinated by the NPS and carried out by scientists with diverse approaches and perspectives, the scientists joined forces to become the Leaf to Landscape Project. Studying the trees at different scales will provide fundamental information about how individual giant sequoia trees respond to drought and will help managers identify specific areas of the forest where trees are more vulnerable to drought and climate change. Managers of these precious forests can then make difficult decisions about where to allocate their limited resources toward protecting vulnerable areas with management techniques such as prescribed fire.
If you are interested to learn more, watch this video to get an overview of the Leaf to Landscape Project and hear about the preliminary findings:
Stay tuned as the story unfolds and the scientists continue to unravel secrets of the world’s mightiest trees!