Hundreds of Giant Sequoias Considered Dead From Wildfires

It appears that rumors of ‘natural and beneficial’ wildfires in the southern Sierra Nevada have been ‘greatly exaggerated’. Even the Alder Creek grove, which was recently bought by Save the Redwoods, was decimated. Of course, this eventuality has been long-predicted.

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-11-16/sierra-nevada-giant-sequoias-killed-castle-fire

8 thoughts on “Hundreds of Giant Sequoias Considered Dead From Wildfires”

  1. Thanks for this story, Larry! Great photos. I thought one thing was a little odd..this quote from Stephenson.

    “How? By ramping up controlled burns, he said, and thinning thick young stands of white fir and incense cedar near communities and roads.”

    It seems to me that all kinds of species may need to be thinned prior to running PB’s through stands.. whatever species happen to be there.

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    • The photo with the caption, “Kristen Shive of the Save the Redwoods League leads a group around the base of the 3,000-year-old Stagg tree, the fifth-largest giant sequoia on record” is interesting. See the stumps around the tree? I’d bet they were white fir. And many of the larger trees in the background are white fir, I think. Those white firs not only create a threat to the giant sequoias from fire, but also because they compete with the sequoias for water — and white firs are very thirsty trees. The white fir thrive unless low-intensity fire kills them before they become large enough to pose a threat. Once the firs are larger, as in the photo, thinning is the only way to reduce the threat to the giant trees.

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      • I get that.. but I wouldn’t call them “thick young stands of white fir” as in the article, I’d call them stands of PPine or Giant Sequoia or whatever with a thick white fir understory.

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        • I have seen examples where pines did not seed in well, after a fire. There must have been good cone crops in the white fir, to produce pure white fir stands. Such stands have problems down the road, with inevitable significant drought mortality. It’s hard to ‘manage’ such a stand, being vulnerable to logging damage. Could it be some sort of successional dead end, resetting back to bare mineral soil?

          The Giant Sequoia National Monument has over 200,000 acres of ‘regular’ non-sequoia ‘forest’. Options are becoming quite sparse.

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          • I can imagine a shelterwood kind of cut where intermediate and small white fir are removed and fire run through. But no one would probably want to buy it, so it would be an expensive treatment.

            If no smaller pines were around you could wait for a good cone crop and do some scratching of the soil, exposing bare mineral. Probably easier to manage just planting some pine post PB- but they would possibly get burned up in the next scheduled PB. It doesn’t seem like there are many easy solutions.

          • Here is an example I’ve watched since 1990, when I was a Harvest Inspector running salvage sales.

            https://www.google.com/maps/@38.7434285,-120.2899712,287m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

            It had severe insect mortality in this pure fir stand. At the time, it was too small to harvest, as well as being dead for a year. Later, in 2000, a thinning project was implemented. Looking at it now, it appears they should have taken more. You can see how thick that stand is in untreated portions.

            Edit: Here’s a historical picture of that stand, from 2000

    • The shade-tolerant understory is usually incense cedar and white fir. Incense cedar seems to have the most drought tolerance. In the southern Sierra, thinning projects may no longer be possible, when the live forest is below the target basal area.

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  2. Professor Richard J. “Dick” Hartesveldt (1921-1975; PH.D., 1962, University of Michigan), an early-60s mentor of mine at San Jose State, pioneered studies of the relationships between Giant Sequoias, white fir, and fire. His “The Giant Sequoia of the Sierra Nevada” published by the National Park Service in 1975 laid the groundwork for future studies which I am certain inform ongoing research on this topic.

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