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coast redwoods-series_grade_9-12 coast redwoods-series_grade_9-12 Document Transcript

  • GRADES ® Redwoods 9-12 Coast Redwood What’s the Tallest Thing You’ve Ever Seen?
  • How would it measure up to a coast redwood tree? The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is the world’s tallest tree species and among the oldest living things. Mature coast redwood trees often reach more than 320 feet tall and many of the tallest known trees are more than 360 feet high. Coast redwoods can reach these heights because they are very resistant to disease and insects. The wood has a high level of tannic acid, which is toxic to most insects. These fascinating trees are named for the beautiful red color of their bark and heartwood. Coast Redwood Giant Sequoia 10- Story Building Apple Tree Where Are Coast Redwoods Found? Photo: Phil Schermeister Coast redwood forests are very rare and grow naturally only in a narrow 450-mile strip along the Pacific Ocean from central California to southern Oregon. More than tall trees, a redwood forest is a complex set of ecosystems made up of an astounding variety of living and once-living things. How Old Are They? Individual coast redwood trees can live for hundreds of years. In some areas of their range, they can live more than 2,000 years. The oldest known coast redwood tree was 2,200 years old. How Do Redwoods Reproduce? Redwoods are conifers, which means they have cones and needle-like leaves. A coast redwood cone is about 1 inch long and contains 14 to 24 tiny seeds about the size of a tomato seed. A single tree may produce millions of seeds in a year. Only a small percentage of the seeds actually germinate and Oregon grow into seedlings. Although coast redwoods can grow from seeds, they more commonly reproduce from sprouts. New trees can sprout from the roots of parent trees, from buds at the base of a tree or from a fallen tree. If a tree is cut or burned, a circle of trees may sprout from the stump, forming a “fairy ring” of new trees. Coast Redwood Range Where Have Redwood Fossils Been Found? Redwood trees are true “living fossils.” As a genus, redwoods have existed California seemingly unchanged for millions of years. Redwood fossils older than 144 million years have been found throughout the western United States and Canada and along the coasts of Europe and Asia. Close ancestors of the coast redwood were living when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Pacific Ocean Coast redwoods prefer mild year-round temperatures with winter rain and heavy fog, a climate that was more common in earlier ages. The last ice age limited coast redwoods to their present range along the coast of northern California and southwestern Oregon.
  • Photo: Phil Schermeister How’s the Weather Up There? Imagine standing at the base of a coast redwood tree. If you crane your neck and look up, you will just see the lowest branches some 10 stories above you. If you peer even higher up, through It’s in the Genes the distant branches and needles, you will hardly see the top of the tree, which can be higher than a 37-story building. Just how Redwoods have more chromosomes than can a coast redwood get so tall? most other cone-bearing trees, a fact that also may help them grow tall. Chromosomes are Trees continue to grow as long as they live — and coast redwoods the part of the cell that carries genes. Conifers can live more than 2,000 years. However, age alone cannot usually have 20 to 24 chromosomes, but fully explain the redwoods’ vast height because they are not the redwoods have 66 or more. That is because oldest trees in the world. Some bristlecone pines in the White redwoods have six copies of each chromosome, Mountains of California are more than 4,500 years old but while most conifers have two copies of each. usually only grow to about 60 feet. How does the number of chromosomes help The coast redwoods’ environment plays a large part in why the redwoods grow? With six copies of each they grow so tall. These trees live where the soil is very rich in chromosome, a single tree can have several nutrients, where they are mostly protected from winds and where alternative forms of a gene. For example, they receive lots of winter rain and summer fog. These conditions a tree may have two or even three different allow them to thrive and grow to great heights. gene codes for an enzyme that helps the tree fight a certain disease. This means that if a Scientists now think that fog may be a critical reason for coast pest or disease tries to attack the tree, the redwoods being so tall. Where the trees live, winters are very tree has a greater chance to protect itself. The rainy, but there is very little rain the rest of the year. During healthier the tree, the more likely it is to grow. the summer, however, a thick fog usually blankets the region. Redwood trees are able to intercept this dense fog in their crowns, where it condenses on their leaves. The trees use this fog in a number of different ways. First, the fog reduces the amount of water that the trees need because they lose less water through their leaves when it is foggy. Second, the trees can absorb the fog directly through the leaves, which is an especially important source of water for young trees. Finally, the condensed fog drips to the ground below the trees, where it soaks in for later use. With summer fog and winter rain, redwoods have water all year- round — this may be the most important reason for their great height.
  • uskin K. Hartley to: R P ho Is the Spice of a Forest’s Life Variety e i st e r Many people think a forest is just a bunch of trees that all look alike. But a healthy forest is really about variety. An ancient coast redwood forest has a mixture of different trees and shrubs that are many different ages and sizes. This allows for a range of different animals and plants to live in the forest. The greater the variety, the more diversity — and a healthy community depends on diversity. Many other tree species can live among the redwoods. Examples of these are Douglas-firs, western hemlocks, grand firs, Sitka spruces, tanoaks, madrones, maples and California bays. g Rhododendrons, dogwoods and ferns thrive underneath the trees, P ho to : H o w ar d K in as do poison oak, huckleberry, hazel and many flowering herbs. Redwood forests also support a large number of animal species, including more than 200 different vertebrates. Frogs, salmon, toads, salamanders, snakes, lizards, marbled murrelets, sparrows, blackbirds, wood warblers, bats, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, weasels, bear, deer and elk all can be found among redwoods. ey r tl Ha K. : R u s k in P h o to r is t e rme ch e P h o t o: P h il S
  • Explore Compare the amount of tree cover in your neighborhood to that in a nearby park or nature area and to a redwood forest. Find aerial maps of the areas to : U S F W S (terraserver.com and Google Earth are possible free sources) and use grid paper to estimate the percentage of Pho each area that is covered by trees. How do the areas compare? What does your community do to maintain its “urban forest”? r te il S c h e r m e is her il S c : Ph : Ph oto to ho Ph P Even redwood soil contains a wide variety of different organisms. Surprisingly, soil can be found high in the branches of the trees. This soil comes from the huge quantity of leaves that the tree sheds each year, some of which collect at the base of large branches and decompose into soil. In studying these soil mats, ndon Cole scientists have found an astonishing number of plants and animals, including beetles, crickets, earthworms, millipedes, salamanders, various fungi, ferns and even B ra young trees — all living hundreds of feet in the air. to : © Pho The plants and animals in the redwood forest are interdependent in many different ways. Scientists now understand that these complex interactions are crucial to the survival of the ancient redwood forest. When roads, housing developments, power lines, logging or trails isolate redwoods from other parts of the forest, they are less likely to thrive. This is a concern because most of the remaining ancient redwood forest is made up of isolated groves. Each element of the ancient forest is connected to others in ways that we may never fully understand. To save the remaining ancient redwoods, it is clear that we have to save the forest as a whole instead of just saving individual trees.
  • Photo: Humboldt Historical Society Saving Get the Coast Redwood Active Forest Learn More The native people of California treated the Visit the Save the Redwoods League Web site at majestic coast redwoods with reverence. SaveTheRedwoods.org. They did not usually cut down national parks and reserves. Find books about redwood trees or redwoods, but used fallen trees Much work remains to ensure ancient forests at a local library. to make planks for houses and that future generations hollowed-out logs for canoes. can enjoy these magnificent Inspire Others There were 2 million acres forests. Thousands of acres of Research different organizations ancient redwood forest remain of ancient coast redwoods in on private land and could still that work on forest issues and join California and Oregon before the be logged for lumber or for one you like. Send your redwood art, 1849 Gold Rush. Since then, real-estate development. poetry, photos or memories to Save redwoods have been logged the Redwoods League, and we might for lumber and to make way The League also considers post them on our Web site! for roads, houses and other climate change a serious buildings. At first, there were so threat to coast redwoods. Many Visit a Park many trees that people did not scientists are concerned Plan a trip with your family to worry about cutting them down. that rising temperatures and a park or reserve in the ancient Today less than 5 percent of the changing weather patterns redwood forest. See the Save the original ancient forest remains. will reduce the coastal fog on Redwoods League Web site at which redwoods depend and SaveTheRedwoods.org Save the Redwoods League was may further limit the range of for information on redwood parks founded in 1918 to protect these redwood forests. Together we and reserves. awe-inspiring trees. Over the are studying the potential years, the League has purchased effects of climate change to many thousands of acres of determine how best to protect Reduce, Reuse, Recycle forestland and has helped to these amazing ecosystems. Trees are logged because there develop dozens of state and is a demand for wood and paper products. You can help reduce the demand by reusing and recycling paper, cardboard and wood at About Save the Redwoods League home and at school. Since 1918, Save the Redwoods ages experience these majestic League has saved redwood forests trees through the forestlands we Plant a Native Tree so that people can be inspired by have helped protect and restore, Learn what kinds of trees are these precious natural wonders — the many education programs we native to your area and choose one now and in the future. The League sponsor and our Web site. to plant. Find a location for the tree and its partners help people of all that will allow it to grow for many years. If you can’t plant a tree, find a local group that will plant one for you. 114 Sansome Street, Suite 1200 San Francisco, CA 94104 (415) 362-2352 SaveTheRedwoods.org/Education