Celebrating the Coast Redwoods: Our Local Climate Guardians
by Margaret Crawford-Ryan
It seems that, lately, every day in the news we hear more dire predictions (and evidence) of the effects of climate change on our world. Sometimes I find it all very daunting, even paralyzing. But today, despite the fact that we have lots of pressing work to do to address climate change, I want to focus on the positive by celebrating some of our local climate guardians: the coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens).
The coast redwoods are truly amazing beings. Their lives can span centuries – many centuries – some redwoods have lived more than 2,500 years! The coast redwood is also the tallest growing tree in the world. The tallest (known) living coast redwood is located in Redwood National Park rising over 379 feet. What’s more, the coast redwood forests that grow along a narrow strip of land along the northern California and southern Oregon coasts, are incredibly good at capturing and storing carbon dioxide, one of the heat-trapping gasses that is influencing climate change. This is why I think of these trees as climate guardians.
While the redwoods grow from seedlings to centuries-old redwoods, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store the carbon in their wood, and then release oxygen that we all breathe. The trees are not really doing anything that is super special—it’s all part of basic photosynthesis.
“It’s just that, because of their size, speed of growth, and their longevity, redwoods are particularly good at capturing and sequestering carbon.”
In fact, research completed through Save the Redwoods League’s Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative (which was supported in part by Sempervirens Fund) has revealed that old growth redwood forests store at least three times more carbon above ground than any other forests on the planet. Three times more carbon! That’s pretty remarkable.
And redwoods continue this process throughout their lives. When young redwoods are stretching toward the sky; when the older redwoods are expanding the girth of their trunks; and when the trees develop new top stories after the old ones are damaged or blow off entirely in a storm—the redwoods continue to grow, capturing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen as they do so.
Now imagine a whole forest of those beautiful redwoods standing tall. Better yet, imagine acres upon acres of redwood forests. I think it’s always best to think of redwoods in multiples (and, even better, to then think of multiples of those multiples!).
“Here in the Santa Cruz Mountains there are hundreds of thousands of acres of redwood forests, much of which is protected as state or local parklands or by land trusts like Sempervirens Fund.”
And I’m so grateful, for where would we be without these forests?
We need the coast redwoods and we need them to keep doing what they do best, naturally.
Are you inspired now? Redwoods are resilient, but they need your help. Will you make a gift to Sempervirens Fund today? Your support will help acquire new forest land, steward vast expanses of redwood forest, and trailblaze research to further the health and well-being of these trees.