Heard a story on NPR today about a group of scientists who are researching possible effects of the California drought on the state’s oldest residents – the sequoia.  Although these giants are resistant to much of what goes on around them – pretty sure in 2000-3000 years they have handled all the quirks of California ecology – people are worried that this may be a new experience for them.

Mariposa Grove, Yosemite

Mariposa Grove, Yosemite

Walking in this quiet place you don’t notice the 500 gallons of water being sucked up by each tree, hauled hundreds of feet into space to nourish the needles and limbs way up at the top.

Muir Woods, San Francisco

Muir Woods, San Francisco

Once the ground is dry, though, all the best hydraulics nature has can’t supply enough water.  The scientists have noticed the upper limbs are brown on some trees and some have lost their needles.  The research to understand this is taking place on two fronts.  One group is climbing the trees (every kid’s dream!) to place water sensors at different heights to measure respiration.  The other group is taking aerial photos through various filters to identify healthy vs. sick trees.  Their hope is to determine the cause of the dying and to find key signs to watch for to measure changes in the forest.

A hopeful forecast is an El Nino forming, with expected heavier rains in the near future.  Otherwise, think of having to water this garden….

What would we do without trees?  For many of us, their forms define that part of country that is not “town.”  Ask a child to draw a landscape and trees are a defining element in their vision.  Trees frame our perspective of the sky and horizon.  And guide us through the forest.



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