tagged w/ Sequoia
A tree-climbing scientist and his team have learned surprising new facts about giant sequoias by measuring them inch by inch.
On a gentle slope above a trail junction in Sequoia National Park, about 7,000 feet above sea level in the southern Sierra Nevada, looms a very big tree. Its trunk is rusty red, thickened with deep layers of furrowed bark, and 27 feet in diameter at the base. Its footprint would cover your dining room. Trying to glimpse its tippy top, or craning to see the shape of its crown, could give you a sore neck. That is, this tree is so big you can scarcely look at it all. It has a name, the President, bestowed about 90 years ago by admiring humans. It’s a giant sequoia, a member of Sequoiadendron giganteum, one of several surviving species of redwoods.
It’s not quite the largest tree on Earth. It’s the second largest. Recent research by scientist Steve Sillett of Humboldt State University and his colleagues has confirmed that the President ranks number two among all big trees that have ever been measured—and Sillett’s team has measured quite a few. It doesn’t stand so tall as the tallest of coast redwoods or of Eucalyptus regnans in Australia, but height isn’t everything; it’s far more massive than any coast redwood or eucalypt. Its dead spire, blasted by lightning, rises to 247 feet. Its four great limbs, each as big as a sizable tree, elbow outward from the trunk around halfway up, billowing into a thick crown like a mushroom cloud flattening against the sky. Although its trunk isn’t quite so bulky as that of the largest giant, the General Sherman, its crown is fuller than the Sherman’s. The President holds nearly two billion leaves.
Trees grow tall and wide-crowned as a measure of competition with other trees, racing upward, reaching outward for sunlight and water. And a tree doesn’t stop getting larger—as a terrestrial mammal does, or a bird, their size constrained by gravity—once it’s sexually mature. A tree too is constrained by gravity, but not in the same way as a condor or a giraffe. It doesn’t need to locomote, and it fortifies its structure by continually adding more wood. Given the constant imperative of seeking resources from the sky and the soil, and with sufficient time, a tree can become huge and then keep growing. Giant sequoias are gigantic because they are very, very old.
They are so old because they have survived all the threats that could have killed them. They’re too strong to be knocked over by wind. Their heartwood and bark are infused with tannic acids and other chemicals that protect against fungal rot. Wood-boring beetles hardly faze them. Their thick bark is flame resistant. Ground fires, in fact, are good for sequoia populations, burning away competitors, opening sequoia cones, allowing sequoia seedlings to get started amid the sunlight and nurturing ash. Lightning hurts the big adults but usually doesn’t kill them. So they grow older and bigger across the millennia.
Another factor that can end the lives of big trees, of course, is logging. Many giant sequoias fell to the ax during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But the wood of the old giants was so brittle that trunks often shattered when they hit the ground, and what remained had little value as lumber. It went into shingles, fence posts, grape stakes, and other scrappy products. Given the difficulties of dealing with logs 20 feet thick, broken or unbroken, the trees were hardly worth cutting. Sequoia National Park was established in 1890, and automobile tourism soon showed that giant sequoias were worth more alive.
One thing to remember about them, as Steve Sillett explained to me during a conversation amid the trees, is that they withstand months of frigid conditions. Their preferred habitat is severely wintry, so they must be strong while frozen. Snow piles up around them; it weights their limbs while the temperature wobbles in the teens. They handle the weight and the cold with aplomb, as they handle so much else. “They’re a snow tree,” he said. “That’s their thing.”
Among the striking discoveries made by Sillett’s team is that even the rate of growth of a big tree, not just its height or total volume, can increase during old age. An elderly monster like the President actually lays down more new wood per year than a robust young tree. It puts that wood around the trunk, which grows wider, and into the limbs and the branches, which grow thicker.
This finding contradicts a long-held premise in forest ecology—that wood production decreases during the old age of a tree. That premise, which has justified countless management decisions in favor of short-rotation forestry, may hold true for some kinds of trees in some places, but not for giant sequoias (or other tall species, including coast redwoods). Sillett and his team have disproved it by doing something that earlier forest ecologists didn’t: climbing the big trees—climbing all over them—and measuring them inch by inch.
With blessings and permits from the National Park Service, they performed such high-altitude metrics on the President. This was part of a larger study, a long-term monitoring project on giant sequoias and coast redwoods called the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. Sillett’s group put a line over the President’s crown, rigged climbing ropes into position (with special protectors for the tree’s cambium), donned harnesses and helmets, and went up. They measured the trunk at different heights; they measured limbs, branches, and burls; they counted cones; they took core samples using a sterilized borer. Then they fed the numbers through mathematical models informed by additional data from other giant sequoias. That’s how they came to know that the President contains at least 54,000 cubic feet of wood and bark. And that’s how they detected that the old beast, at about the age of 3,200, is still growing quickly. It’s still inhaling great breaths of CO₂ and binding the carbon into cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin in a growing season interrupted by six months of cold and snow. Not bad for an oldster.
That’s the remarkable thing about them, Sillett told me. “Half the year, they’re not growing above ground. They’re in the snow.” They grow bigger than their biggest compeer, the coast redwood, even with a shorter growing season.
Continued at linkA tree-climbing scientist and his team have learned surprising new facts about giant... more
In love and appreciation for our beautiful natural world!
Meditation: A Song and A Prayer for Our Forests - The Sacred Places Series
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Watch in "high quality" if you are able, it is much better to view.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park, California
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John Muir described the mighty Sequoia as natures masterpiece, the greatest of living things, a king tree, and the very god of the woods. There is indeed something otherworldly about sequoia groves along with their companion pines finding their own space and light beneath the shadow of the giant trees!
It is difficult to determine the exact age of the Sequoia, the majestic Grant and Sherman Trees are estimated to be around 3,000 to 3,500 years old. The Grant Tree has the largest known diameter, 28.9 feet at breast height, and about 267 feet tall. The Sherman Tree measured approximately 275 feet tall, 25.1 feet in diameter, a ground perimeter of 102.6 feet, is considered to be the largest living Sequoia, about 10 percent larger volume wise than the Washington Tree, followed by the Grant Tree. Many of the giants are 1,500 to 2,000 years old. The Sequoias natural habitat is only in a relatively small area of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a collective total of around 36,000 to 38,000 acres.
Patrick Leonard's exquisite piano improvisations.
Snapshots... documenting a moment for the sheer joy and sake of it - one camera, one lens for the most part and taking each moment for what it is, no matter the time of day, light, the situation perfect or imperfect. Remembering magical moments as I appreciate the world I live in, and appreciate our wise ancestors who have left us these legacies of ancient, sacred, mysterious and beautiful places. May future generations also experience the benefit and beauty of our unique, magnificent, and much needed forests.
to me sacred place can be any space that elevates ones being or awareness to a level beyond that of everyday life. Sacred places can be rendered from forests and waterways, desert rock formations, intentional architectural forms such as the legacies of ancient Egypt constructed by masters of harmony and form, or something more personal that holds significance to the individualIn love and appreciation for our beautiful natural world! Meditation: A Song and A... more
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Summer's almost here travelers! While most travel businesses are suffering there is one that is thriving in this economy: Campgrounds. 2009 is the summer for camping! So campers this week light up the campfire and listen to our story, "The Tale of the best camping resources available on the net!"
Get all the links to the camping resources at triponadeal.com
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Ben heads to UC Santa Barbara to talk to the professors behind a study on Sequoia Voting Systems, a voting machine used in seventeen states as well as Washington DC. The study led to the machine being decommissioned in the
state of California. This is serious investigative journalism, which means a clip of a farting baby was used only twice.
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Ben heads to UC Santa Barbara to talk to the professors behind a study on Sequoia... more
Princeton Professor, Ed Felton, has posted a series of blog entries in which he shows the printed tapes he obtained from the NJ voting machines don't report the ballots correctly. In response to the first one, Sequoia admitted that the machines had a known software design error that did not correctly record which kind of ballots were cast (republican or democratic primary ballots) but insisted the vote totals were correct. Then, further tapes showed this explanation to be insufficient. In response, State officials insisted that the (poorly printed) tapes were misread by Felton. Again further tapes showed this not to be a sufficient explanation. However all those did not foreclose the optimistic assessment that the errors were benign — that is, the possibility that vote totals might really be correct even though the ballot totals were wrong and the origin of the errors had not been explained. Now he has found (well-printed) tapes that show what appears to be hard proof that it's the vote totals that are wrong, since two different readout methods don't agree. Sequoia has made trade-secret legal threats against those wishing to mount an independent examination of the equipment. One small hat-tip to Sequoia: at least they are reporting enough raw data in different formats that these kinds of errors can come to light — that lesson should be kept in mind when writing future requirements for voting machines.Princeton Professor, Ed Felton, has posted a series of blog entries in which he shows... more