California's giant sequoias raise concerns after large fires

·2-min read
"Reports of inadequate regeneration in high severity areas are raising concerns," indicated the NPS in a release.

The United States' National Park Service is concerned about the survival of giant sequoia trees following the large fires that ravaged California's forests in September. The forestry authority estimates that the area of burned sequoias is about the size of 3,350 soccer fields.

Are the sequoia trees in America's major parks at risk? The National Park Service (NPS) has released a report on the impact of wildfires on giant sequoias during the September 2021 fire season. The same storm triggered the two largest fires (KNP Complex) and affected Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, as well as the Sequoia National Forest. Both public and private stakeholders are very concerned about the consequences of these recent fires.

Equivalent of 3550 soccer fields burned

"In total, 27 giant sequoia groves fall fully or partially within the perimeters of the fires," indicated the National Park Service, which estimates the total area of redwoods burned at 24.72 square kilometers (6,109 acres) of groves. That is to say, a little less than 3,550 soccer fields (if we take 7,000 square meters or 1.76 acres of land as a reference).

Losses range from 2,261 to 3,637 trees killed or dying over the next three to five years. The estimates are for redwoods larger than 1.2 meters in diameter. These losses represent about 3 to 5% of all giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A heavy toll for a park that during the previous year already tallied a loss of between 10 and 14% of the large sequoias.

Regeneration areas that are 'raising concerns'

The National Park Service is currently working to regenerate burned areas. And while sequoias "generally regenerate well after wildfires ...reports of inadequate regeneration in high severity areas are raising concerns," notes the NPS.

Depending on the intensity and severity of the fires, some seeds may have been burned or washed away by soil erosion, making the regeneration process impossible.

"In total 436 acres were identified that may be vulnerable to total sequoia loss if regeneration from seeds that survived the fire is inadequate," NPS explains.

Louis Bolla

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