A group of scientists observed that more and more giant sequioa trees in California are exhibiting manifestations of stress as leaves go drier and sparser than its common condition. According to the experts, the massive drought that has been recently enveloping the planet may be the deadly culprit.
Anthony Ambrose, a tree biologist from the University of California, Berkeley, and Koren Nydick, an ecologist at the National Park Service, aimed to comprehend the manner in which the giant trees react in times of extreme drought. Knowledge about the extent and severity of a drought that can cause significant hazards to the giant sequioas is limited, says Ambrose.
The team of scientists is collecting tree samples at Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains for their study. In the said nature reserve, the giant sequioas stand as high as 300 feet and some are aged as old as 3,000 years. With these features, the trees are believed to have undergone extreme droughts before. However, the experts think that being subjected to the current drought condition, the trees look as if they are yet to face the worst.
"The good news is that there are lots of trees that still seem healthy," says Nydick. Nonetheless, she admits that the level of stress that some of the trees are exhibiting is something she has not observed nor known in the park and its records.
In 2014 while walking through the woods, Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, found that most of the trees that he has been studying for about 10 years have lost most of their leaves. He later collaborated with different agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, Stanford University and the Carnegie Airborne Observatory to initiate thorough health research about the sequioas.
A giant sequioa tree is known to consume massive amounts of water. During the extreme heat of the summer months, the massive trees, which have been standing for about a millennium, can use about 500-800 gallons of water daily. These trees are also known to have survived storms, wildfires and beetles. However, the experts are bothered that the present drought in California may be the kryptonite for the trees. The scientists are looking at obtaining enough study samples from both healthy and decaying trees to come up with a way to prevent further damage among the trees.
California has been experiencing excruciating drought for five years now. As per records, the driest January that the state has ever encountered occurred in 2015. Officials are still trying to come up with emergent water conservation measures. Amid the efforts, the scientists are still concerned about the effects of the water shortage in residences, farms and the entire ecological system of the state.
Photo: Darrell McPeake | Flickr