Op-Ed: With climate change, we may witness sequoia forests convert to chaparral
A few weeks ago I was in the Los Angeles area, where I found myself at the home of a friend in the Hollywood Hills. I’d heard of the beautiful redwood forests there, but had no idea how they would compare to the famous trees I’d been hearing about. They are a few short miles from my home, and were there when I arrived, but because the weather was a good bit too warm for walking (the temperature in most of Los Angeles that day was somewhere near 80 degrees), I decided to head out to get a better sense for the forest.
While walking through the woods, I was stopped for a few hours by a few very friendly and enthusiastic tree-climbing guides. They were well aware of climate change and were very well informed about the forest. What I didn’t realize was just how much people had been underestimating how much the climate was changing before I even joined them.
I walked through this lovely, pristine, redwood forest several times, and as I walked I marveled at what nature can do, even in a city like Los Angeles. The heat from the sun only added to the beauty of the evergreen trees, and in the shade of the tall, thick trees, the redwoods really were breathtaking.
In other parts of the world, the trees of redwood forest are very similar to the redwoods of California. Both are highly resistant to the attacks of other trees, and both also have the ability to withstand some pretty rough weather. However, we humans have greatly underestimated just how tough these trees are.
Redwoods are not, in general, the most susceptible species to climate change. They have the ability to withstand more extreme temperatures and water than any other, and in general, tropical redwoods are not particularly sensitive to temperature and can still grow quite large (as I saw when I was in the Pacific Northwest, for example).
There are, however, large trees that can’t thrive under the current climate and cannot recover when the climate changes. In the last couple weeks I had the opportunity to observe one of these, and it had a dramatic effect on me.
A little time ago I wrote an Op-Ed for Climate Progress, “Redwood forests could become a thing of the past“ (July 25, 2012). I