Ancient Redwoods Prove Resilient to Climate Warming and Get Cloned

Bend, OR (December 4, 2012) – There’s renewed focus recently on California’s giant redwood and sequoia trees. New science reports that their resiliency and ability to pull carbon from an increasingly warming atmosphere make them worthy of intensive protections.  To help do that, Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is planting 250 clones carrying an exact genetic copy from 18 of some of the world’s biggest redwoods and giant sequoias near the Oregon California border hoping to foster a new grove.

Once the world’s second biggest tree, the General Grant giant sequoia tree has been supplanted by The President, a 54,000-cubic-foot gargantuan not far from the Grant in Sequoia National Park. After 3,240 years, the giant sequoia still is growing wider at a consistent rate, surprising scientists examining how the sequoias and coastal redwoods will be affected by climate change and whether these trees have a role to play in combating it.

A redwood research team from Humboldt State University is mathematically assessing the potential of California’s iconic trees to absorb planet-warming carbon dioxide. It’s part of a 10-year Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative funded by the Save the Redwoods League in San Francisco.

The measurements of The President, reported in the current National Geographic, dispelled the previous notion that the big trees grow more slowly in old age, when in fact, they are some of the fastest growing trees in the world. What this means is that the amount of carbon dioxide they absorb during photosynthesis continues to increase over their lifetimes.  Read more in Scientists: Upon further review, a giant sequoia outranks a neighboring tree for No. 2 spot

Hoping to save some of the world’s biggest redwoods and giant sequoias, Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is planting 250 clones carrying an exact genetic copy from 18 different trees near the Oregon California border. This week, they planted two clones grown from stumps and 28 of California’s largest, oldest coast redwoods and giant sequoias on four acres south of Port Orford.

The planting, which will later include 248 additional clones, is Archangel’s first attempt to recreate an old-growth forest from its storehouse of rooted cuttings from “champion” trees, the tallest, oldest and largest samples of each species it can find. The group picked the Oregon location, just north of the coast redwood’s main range, as a hedge in case global warming weakens the trees further south.

Archangel hopes to extend its replanting worldwide, battling climate change by tapping the huge trees’ unmatched ability to store carbon. The idea hinges on the as-yet scientifically unproven theory that the ancient redwoods and giant sequoias will prove genetically superior to younger, smaller cousins.

David Milarch, a Michigan shade tree nurseryman and Archangel’s co-founder, spent two decades collecting cuttings and cloning the biggest trees nationwide, a quest ignited by near-death experience that was chronicled in New York Times contributor Jim Robbins, “The Man who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet.”

Going forward, Milarch’s vision is two-pronged, to put the clones in areas that might be safer for the trees if the globe heats up, a process known as “assisted migration.” He also believes coast redwoods and giant sequoias will be the best trees to quickly suck up carbon dioxide and absorb manmade emissions and hopes to expand plantings of the trees across the globe to build momentum for reforestation. Read more about Milarch’s quest at “Ancient redwoods, giant sequoias to be ‘archived’ on Oregon coast”.

Related Resources
Scientists: Upon further review, a giant sequoia outranks a neighboring tree for No. 2 spot
Cloning gives long-dead trees a second life
Ancient Cloned Trees Planted to Begin New Forest of Redwoods (photo essay)
“Ancient redwoods, giant sequoias to be ‘archived’ on Oregon coast”.
Archangel Ancient Tree Archive
“The Man who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet.”