The Arcata Eye received an invitation to talk to some of the top redwood scientists about the Redwood and Climate Change Initiative and, lucky for me, I got to be the one who joined them under the shade of the tallest trees in the world. The piece is in this week’s Eye and online. Here is an excerpt but I recommend you go learn about the whole amazing project–Which includes that redwood trees are growing faster now (in the last 100 years) than they’ve ever grown before!
HUMBOLDT – For centuries, the coastal redwoods and giant sequoias have stood as tightly furled scrolls holding ancient writings inscribed by rain and fog and drought.
Today, a group of scientists, with the help of technology, has crafted a way to read those scrolls without destroying them. With the information gathered, the Save the Redwoods League (which is funding the team) hopes to create strategies to protect these living towers from the impact of climate change….
Not only [with the information they are gathering] can scientists begin to see climate across the region back through time but “We can reconstruct climate if we can correlate …the variation in ring width with past climate records….”
“By carefully taking the wood from each one of these little rings (once they’ve been cross dated), we know the exact year this particular ring was formed. We can then take that piece of wood and analyze it… we can… get a lot of information about the environmental conditions that were occurring at the time that that wood was being produced… For example, fog water has a particular isotopic signature…as opposed to rain water …”
…As the team worked together using all their different areas of expertise, one of the surprising pieces of information they discovered was that the redwoods are growing faster than they ever have before. Using the rings, the researchers can now tell how big a tree was at any given time in the past. And they can see, according to Sillett, “the rate of wood production is nearly twice as high as it was in 1900. We’re not sure why. We’re not sure what that means at the whole forest level. [But] these trees…are growing faster now than they have grown… ever.”
You can also check out who the scientists are and some of the amazing things they do here. The scientist furthest to the right in the photo above is Steven Sillet, star of the National Geographic specials about climbing the redwoods to observe them from high in the air. Several of my science minded friends got giggly and girly when I said his name. Apparently he is the scientist equivalent of a rock star.
Save the Redwoods is looking for donations to help them study these amazing trees and study the changes in our climate.