Giant Sequoias: The Phoenix of the Forest
From fire and death comes growth and rebirth. We have all heard of the rough fire that engulfed more than 150.000 acres of National Forest last year between July and November, and many worry about the decimation of our special, natural land. However, among the scorched bark, branches, and top soil emerges new life; saplings, some no bigger than a coin.
So often fire is associated with death, destruction, and ruin, and perhaps this may be the case in a human society, but in a forest’s ecosystem it is quite the contrary.
Forest fire allows for some brutal spring cleaning; out with the old and in with the new. This process illuminates what many National Park and Forest fire experts already know; while fire can be destructive, it can be extremely beneficial to the forest, and possibly not as destructive as drought and pests. In fact, Cal Fire has approximated that as many as 29 million trees have been killed in California over the last 5 years due to drought and pests.
The Rough fire acted as a broom of sorts, eradicating some of the dead and dying trees, clearing space for new growth. This is exactly the reason why controlled burns are done, so in a way, the forest was handling the clean-up itself. The fire also burned up smaller bushes, moss, and other plants that take water away from the giants, which means less competition for water. In addition to this, it is important to remember that fire causes the giant sequoia cones to release their seeds, meaning new trees in place of those who lost their life due to the fire.
The forest’s ecosystem is give and take. It is a beautiful thing, to see new, promising life come from death and destruction. However, just because the bark of our beloved 1,000+ year old trees are singed, it does not always mean the end of their story. According to Tony Caprio, the Kings Canyon National Park’s fire ecologist, “The bark is low density and up to three feet thick, and it will regenerate after fire as long as the tree survives.” So, the Rough fire has brought new life, and also tested the ability for old life to survive.
It would be a mistake to regard the Rough fire as just another natural disaster. Nature has a way of taking care of itself, and the outcome of the Rough fire may just be able to attest to that. Things don’t always happen the way we want them to, but we would be foolish to take the positive consequences for granted. May we learn a lesson from the animals that have already begun to return to some of the most devastated areas; appreciate what we have and everything will be okay, one way or another.
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