Are the World’s Big Trees Doomed?


Theexistence of some of the “largest organisms that have ever lived” –3,000-year-old sequoias, the 2,000-year-old giant redwoods,big trees around the world in Amazonia, Africa and central America — is in danger as never before, saysNew Scientist magazine. We human beings whobuild roads, farms and settlements are certainly to blame. But longer and more extreme droughts and the introduction of new pests and diseases are also contributing to big trees’s demise with repercussions for the climate.

When older trees die, forests “release their stored carbon, prompting a vicious circle of further warming and forest shrinkage,” saysWilliam Laurance, a research professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.Big trees comprise only 2 percent of any forest’s trees but they are crucial to their ecosystem as they provide a quarter of the biomass andalso seed large areas. SaysLaurance:

“With their tall canopies basking in the sun, big trees capture vast amounts of energy. This allows them to produce massive crops of fruits, flowers and foliage that sustain much of animal life in the forests. Their canopies help moderate the local forest environment while their understory creates a unique habitat for other plantsand animals,” said Laurance.

In some parts of the world, Laurance said, populations of big trees are dwindling because their seedlings cannot survive or grow. “In southern India an aggressive shrub is invading the understorey of many forests, preventing seedlings from dropping on the floor. With no young trees to replace them, it’s only a matter of time before most of the big trees disappear.”

Due to having tall, inflexible trunks, the biggest trees located at the edges of the forest are especially susceptible to wind turbulence and to being uprooted.

Furthermore, to achieve their vast heights, big trees need lots of time to grow but, in some parts of the world, their seedlings are unable to survive. In India, says Laurance, an “aggressive shrub” is to account for this: The shrub has taken over the understoryof the forest and is preventing seedlings from reaching the ground. In other countries, exotic species sold at garden centers are the source of bacterial infections that can be harmful to native plants.

Equally alarming is that the biggest trees in communities around the world are in danger. Laurance points out thatDutch elm disease killed off “many of the stateliest trees in Britain in the 1960s and 70s”; in the US, the disease almost completely killed all the elms of Connecticut’s “Elm City,” New Haven, in the 1930s.

I still remember the feeling of awe I had on seeing the giant sequoias in California when I was a child in the 1970s. The forest ranger spoke of how people had lived in the trees and how the roots were big enough to drive a car through. Walking beneath treesthat seemed even taller than any buildings filled me with awe and the memory has stayed with me. For the sequoias to be over 3,000 years old means that they had been alive since the late Bronze Age, when the legendary events of the Trojan War may have taken place. Are the sequoias and the redwoods doomed to become history, to be the stuff of legends and stories of how “things used to be”?


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Photo by jjandames


Neil A.
Neil A4 years ago

I have always loved trees & climbed a lot in my time since a child, I now have a bit of land in the Alpujarras south of Granada & interestingly some of the olive trees are hundreds of years old 1 looks more than 700 years old & these still produce good olives, the trees are very handsome & worth keeping just for aesthetic appeal.
Save the beautiful old trees.

Kari J.
Kari J4 years ago

Is there anything more magnificent than a huge tree in leaf? I think not.

Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. ~Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies, 1928

The oaks and the pines, and their brethren of the wood, have seen so many suns rise and set, so many seasons come and go, and so many generations pass into silence, that we may well wonder what "the story of the trees" would be to us if they had tongues to tell it, or we ears fine enough to understand. ~Author Unknown, quoted in Quotations for Special Occasions by Maud van Buren, 1938

A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible. ~Welsh Proverb

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

Though human activity is to blame for some of this, much of it is natural, and the big trees will die of their own accord. Who knows what will replace them? It is nature.

Jim Richards
Jim Richards5 years ago

I have spent so much time with the sequoias ...and I so wish everyone could! There are no words ro explain their wonder nor the joy they fill you with ...

Suzy D.
Reverend Suzy D5 years ago

Large trees not only inspire us, they are sentinels of love. If we do not accommodate their needs and the needs of their successive generations, then it not only diminishes the environment and the ecology, it also diminishes something profound within our soul !

federico bortoletto

Grazie per l'articolo

Maureen W.
Maureen W5 years ago

Does anyone get the feeling that the shit is really about to hit the fan?

Vicki B.
Vicki B5 years ago

Disturbing news! These big trees are crucial and must be saved.

Tolga U.
Tolga U5 years ago

everything is doomed due to the presence of the humans.

LM Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

sad,,, thank you for article