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Fall Bulletin 2007 ~ Save the Redwoods League

Fall Bulletin 2007 ~ Save the Redwoods League

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05/12/2010

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Save-the-Redwoods League
Fall Bulletin 2007 
Sinkyone Wilderness State Park Photo: Don Briggs 
 
S a v e - t h e - R e d w o o d s L e a g u e
|Fall Bulletin
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The future vitality of the coast redwoods will dependin part on the fog, and the complex interplay of airtemperature, sea surface temperature, atmospheric andocean currents.Eighteen years ago, sitting in the geography library atthe University of Cambridge, I read reams of researchon climate change. The evidence showed sometemperature changes taking place throughout the world, but was it a natural cooling/warming cycle? Orthe result of human impact? Today symptoms of change are visible everywhere, from Britain, whereflowers are blooming earlier each year, to Chile whereglaciers are receding. Most scientists now agree thatthese changes are driven by increasing carbon dioxidein the atmosphere, caused by human activity. A scientific, political, and public consensus hasdeveloped, spurring action to avert catastrophicchange. In this Bulletin, you will read about LeagueCouncillor, Todd Dawson, and his work to understandthe impact of climate change on the redwood forest.For almost 90 years, Save-the-Redwoods League has worked to protect the ancient redwood forest, resultingin the creation of a system of more than 51 redwoodparks and reserves. In the late 19th and early 20thcentury, the coast redwood and giant sequoia inspiredsome of the earliest citizen-driven conservation efforts. Inthose days the primary threat to the millennia-old forests was the “axe and shake.” Our Master Plan for the CoastRedwoods guides our protection and restoration work toensure these places are large enough to sustain naturalprocesses and are connected to a resilient ecologicalnetwork. However, today’s threats to the coast redwood
Executive Director, Ruskin Hartley 
Letter from theExecutive Director 
and giant sequoia forests are more complex and insidiousand require a more sophisticated response. We still need to work collectively, throughorganizations like Save-the-Redwoods League, toprotect and restore land (in this issue of the Bulletinyou’ll read about some critical park additions), but wemust also take personal responsibility for our actions. We can do so by reducing, re-using, and recycling, andby speaking up and letting everyone know we careabout wonderful places like the ancient redwoodforests.How can we take action as individuals? I gave up my daily coffee shop trip, opting for the communal pot inthe office. We replaced home lightbulbs with energy saving compact fluorescents. With a newborn child,facing the diaper-dilemma and endless laundry, weopted for cloth and a new energy efficient washer anddryer. We also walk as much as we can, or take the bus.These are all small things, but I hope that collectively they will make a differenceI encourage you to talk with your family and friendsand identify actions you can take to be part of thesolution. Gain inspiration by visiting the redwoodparks, explore volunteer opportunities, get involved with your communities in leading the charge to helpprotect our environment. Please write and share yourstories with me and other League members. Ultimately it is our individual actions that will save the redwoods.Ruskin K. Hartley 
 W 
hen I walk through an ancient redwood forest I often get theshivers. Not just because they are beautiful, but usually because the misty, foggy trails leave their visitors a bit damp and cold.Fog is the life-blood of the redwood forest, providing up to 40% of the trees’ water during the driest months of the year. It is therefore nocoincidence that the redwoods grow more massive where the wintersare wet and the summers foggy.
  p   h  o  t  o  :   P  a  o   l  o   V  e  s  c   i  a
 
S a v e - t h e - R e d w o o d s L e a g u e
|Fall Bulletin
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F
rom the highest pointatop a lofty peak inGermany near the turnof the nineteenth century,there exists a detailed accountof an immense, magnificentfigure created in the mists.Enveloped in shimmeringsunlight, it hovered phantom-like, but for a moment, overits chronicling climber. Thefigure was in fact nothingmore than the momentarily lingering shadow of theclimber, assuming a deceptivegrandeur in the sun. Thephenomenon, called the Broken Spectre, would later bedescribed as a curious incident which occurs when aperson sees his shadow—projected onto air filled withsnow-mist—as a grand, ethereal figure looming beforehim. The Spectre has remained fascinating to explorersthroughout history, revered as an instance of man finding within the elements of nature, quite literally, his larger self.Over 200 years later, the idea finds its modern-day counterpart perched high amid the coastal fog, over 200feet above the ground. This time, however, the shadowscast are significantly more imposing, for today ToddDawson and his group of researchers are placing sensorshigh in the foggy canopy of the redwood forest. For years,Dawson's research teams have ascended trees in Sonomaand Santa Cruz, installing nearly 30 pounds of gear tomonitor the moisture which giant redwoods absorb fromfog. Climbers of a different sort, Dawson and company are making their own unique observations—and doing sofrom a spectacular vantage point.Dawson, a UC Berkeley professor and Save-the-Redwoods League Councillor, has spent much of hiscareer studying the intricate relationships between thephysiological and ecological characteristics of plants andtheir dynamic environments. His prior studies in Amazonian forests described the elaborate manner in which trees use water, distributing it upward, whileamplifying both carbon uptakeand atmospheric cooling. A few years ago, Dawson showedthat fog is a crucial source of  water for redwood forests.Perhaps most importantly, hehas also noted how increases inair temperature reduce coastalfog in California. Havingmade this chain of key discoveries, Dawson now wants to know how the forests will be affected by globalclimate change—a study supported by Save-the-Redwoods League's researchgrants program. “What happens if our climate ends upchanging?" he asks. “How might that influence waterintake? And, in turn, how might that affect the forest?”Global warming has, since its initial emergence into thepublic consciousness, been fundamentally associated with the basic functions of trees. As anyone who hasmade a terrarium in grade school knows, it is thephotosynthesis of trees and plants which convertscarbon dioxide (CO
2
) to oxygen. On the one hand, livetrees absorb atmospheric CO
2
, which they store asbiomass (“carbon stocks”) for hundreds or—in the caseof an ancient redwood—even thousands of years.However, when disturbed (by cutting, or naturaldisturbances such as fires and floods), forests release thisstored carbon back into the atmosphere as CO
2
.Forests, therefore, play a multifaceted role in climatechange, at once providing a reservoir or “sink” whichcollects atmospheric carbon dioxide, producing a“buffering” influence on overall climate, and effectively “recycling” CO
2
and water from forest soil back intotheir respective cycles.So, while a tree is essentially a reservoir which can holdcarbon and thereby protect the atmosphere, itsrelationship to overall climatic change is difficult topredict due to the complex interaction of the carboncycle, the water cycle, and other environmental cycles.
 Anthony Ambrose, research team member, placing wireless sensor node in Sonoma County redwood  photo: Kevin Simonen
By Stephanie Jakob
Casting a Long Shadow:Redwoods and Climate Change

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