Photograph by Michael Nichols from National Geographic website
Hear an extended 20+ min. interview with Stephen Sillett below.
According to a press release from the Humboldt State University Media Relations Office:
Stephen C. Sillett, the first Kenneth L. Fisher Chair in Redwood Forest Ecology at Humboldt State University, and his colleagues have confirmed the second-largest tree on earth, about 3,240 years old, above a trail junction in Sequoia National Park, according to the latest edition of National Geographic magazine.
High-altitude climbing research and painstaking measurements by Sillett and his colleagues show that the giant sequoia, named the President about 90 years ago, ranks number two among all big trees ever measured, National Geographic reports.Twenty-seven feet in diameter at the base, the President’s spire rises 247 feet and is estimated to house nearly two billion leaves. It stands some 7,000 feet above sea level in the southern Sierra Nevada. In addition to confirming the tree’s near-record size, state-of-the-art climbing technology and extreme precision have enabled the Sillett operations crew to pinpoint startling facts, among them: a big tree’s rate of growth can increase despite old age. That negates the long-held belief that wood production diminishes as trees grow old, the premise undergirding short-rotation forestry.
The Sillett crew’s breakthrough, high-altitude research—numerous and demanding human ascent operations, laborious raising of cameras, the taking of bore samples and sophisticated mathematical modeling—is a key component of the 10-year Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative, led by Humboldt State and UC Berkeley redwoods scientists under the auspices of the Save the Redwoods League, San Francisco. The objectives are to gather research on how redwoods can survive immense environmental alterations and to devise a long-term, comprehensive strategy for redwoods adaptation to protect and restore redwood forestlands.
The research is aimed at data-based approaches to protection against climate change. It will be based in part on a network of forest plots to be monitored for more than 100 years. The study includes whole-tree and whole-forest rates of annual wood production as far back as 1,000 years. Leading scientists Sillett and Robert Van Pelt of Humboldt State University and Todd Dawson and Anthony Ambrose of the UC Berkeley are probing the capacity of redwoods to mitigate the impact of climate changes through their own photosynthesis, fog interception, wood production and carbon sequestration. The team will attempt to reconstruct past climates to learn how redwoods responded historically to climate change and then assess how the trees are adapting currently. Greenhouse experiments will be used to analyze how redwood seedlings and saplings from different parts of forest ranges might react to climate change.
Related information: For a wonderful book depicting the beauty and complexity of the redwoods see: The Wild Trees by Richard Preston - available in the Humboldt County Library system both as a book and recorded book.
On the Tues., Nov. 20 edition of the KMUD Local News, KMUD News Coordinator, Terri Klemetson, aired an interview with researcher Stephen Sillett. Use the player below to hear the extended version of that interview.
Photo of Sillett in climbing gear