About 10% to 14% of the world’s mature giant sequoia trees were destroyed by the Castle Fire, which occurred in the southern Sierra Nevada last year. This is according to a draft report prepared by scientists at the National Park Service and shared with Visalia Times-Delta.
In late 2020, firefighters managed to contain the Castle Fire at the Sequoia National Park after it had claimed about 175,000 acres of forest land. According to the latest report, about 7,500 to 10,000 monarchs were lost in the fire, equal to approximately 10% of the world’s mature giant sequoia population.
The researchers used satellite images and modeling from previous fires to come to this conclusion. Although they have admitted that the results have not yet been peer-reviewed, the figures are significant and must be taken seriously.
“I cannot overemphasize how mind-blowing this is for all of us,” said study author Christy Brigham, Chief of Resources Management and Science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, as reported by Visalia Times-Delta. “These trees have lived for thousands of years. They’ve survived dozens of wildfires already.”
The revelations are alarming not only because of the sheer size of destruction but also due to the value of redwood forests. These forests are among the most effective carbon sinks, and they are also an important habitat for wildlife.
Brigham said that scientists will be visiting the forest areas that sustained the most damage to ascertain the accuracy of the findings. She said that they hope for a better situation upon examination.
“I have a vain hope that once we get out on the ground the situation won’t be as bad, but that’s hope — that’s not science,” Brigham said.
Amarina Wuenschel, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said that the damage to sequoias is worth noting, given that the trees are well adapted to fires. Scientists had hoped that these trees would fair better against wildfires as compared to other species.
Researchers are hopeful that the findings may inspire policymakers to take action. They are calling for more resources being allocated toward forest management and fire prevention.
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