How will California's drought affect its ancient redwood forests?

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My internal Debbie Downer says that we should burn them all down in one super-conflagration surrounded by a party well beyond Dionysian limits, because the horse is dead and we’ve only dragged it this far, so instead of dragging it any farther, let’s do our best Slim Pickens imitation as we ride The Big One for that last few seconds.
My internal environmentalist, on the other hand, is drunk and trying desperately to convince my internal pessimist that we should drown my internal optimist.


Was in Armstrong woods last year with my wife, it is beyond words how awesome it is.

PS. The super el nino in the Pacific Ocean is coming this fall & winter to the USA, check your roof for leaks!

restart Yosemite’s firefall tradition.


Please! The verb should be “affect,” not “impact.” Sorry to be a grammar Nazi, but that one really gets my goat, not to mention “impactfull.”


I doubt we’ll survive another non-winter and rain-free summer here in SE BC without very significant effects on our rainforests. I just read a long-term forecast predicting exactly the same “nice” weather for the next 18 months that we’ve had for the last 18 months. It seems like it just doesn’t rain here much anymore, and it is never cold.

If by “firefall tradition” you mean flamethrowers and molotov cocktails, then I concur. :smiling_imp:

How pedestrian. No, they used to build a giant bonfire at the top near bridalveil falls and then slowly push the fire over the side, creating a summertime waterfall of fire, or firefall.

It was stopped in the late 70s, I believe, because…

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…flamethrowers and molotov cocktails were invented. Duh.

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“It’s an unusual situation where the trees are actually showing signs of drought that they’ve never displayed before,”

“…in the short time we’ve been observing them.”

There. Fixed that.

There are specimens among today’s redwoods that survived both of the mega-droughts of the 800-1300 CE “Medieval Warm Period” - compared to which, the current drought is minor and (so far) short-lived.

Researchers at the University of Arizona have been studying redwood tree-ring data to better understand the Medieval Warm Period:

UA News: Giant Sequoias Yield Longest Fire History from Tree Rings

Note “Fire History.” Fires can burn through redwood groves without killing the trees, though many will show fire scars in the ring structure. Fires are more common during warm, dry periods than during cooler, wetter times.

And they’re necessary, apparently, to the long-term health of the forest. As the UA researchers remark,

The health of the giant sequoia forests seems to require those frequent, low-intensity fires, Swetnam said. He added that as the climate warms, carefully reintroducing low-intensity fires at frequencies similar to those of the Medieval Warm Period may be crucial for the survival of those magnificent forests, such as those in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Since 1860, human activity has greatly reduced the extent of fires. He and his colleagues commend the National Park Service for its recent work reintroducing fire into the giant sequoia groves.

The researchers also found that charcoal layers in sediment cores could be cross-correlated with the tree-ring data, allowing them to extend the history of fire in the redwoods as far back as 8000 years.

It’s not that these trees have never displayed such signs of drought stress before now; it’s just that we weren’t here to see it.

They’ve survived far, far worse than this.


So, yeah, firefalls might be good. (-:

FYI relevant info here >


Phenomenal! Surviving a 200 year drought only serves to underscore how awesome those trees are. Got lucky and caught a meteor shower while camping under some of those trees in Yosemite once.

If any slugs are reading this, I wholly recommend finding what used to be called “Tree 9” behing the dorms on College Nine. Huge Douglas fir that could be climbed 100-120 feet (?), right up to the crown of the tree that had a little butt-shaped indent and allowed a 360 degree view right at the top of the redwood canopy (or the parts downhill, that is).

Edit: Naturally, The Man lopped off the lower branches in 2010 to prevent Joy, so no climbey for you recent slugs, sorry.

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