Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
American poet Joyce Kilmer (1886 – 1918) admired the beauty of a “tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair,” noting that “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”
Seemingly strong and invincible – some as old as 2,000 years – California’s ponderosa and sugar pines, giant redwoods and sequoias are falling victim to years of drought, fires, beetle infestations and other perils.
Since 2010 over 102 million trees have died in California. In 2016 alone the state lost 62 million trees. Most were in the Sierra Nevada mountains at elevations between 5,000 and 6,000 feet.
Even Northern California’s famous 150-ft-tall “drive-thru” Pioneer’s Cabin Tree, estimated to have been more than 1,000-years-old, died this year. Carved into a tunnel in 1880, when people weren’t aware of environmental issues, the giant sequoia finally toppled over.
Environmental researchers are calling the trees’ demise “shocking” and “scary.” Replacing the lost trees would take centuries.
This winter’s heavy rains won’t be enough to undo the drought-caused damage to California’s forests. What’s more, the loss of these majestic trees extends beyond the state, potentially impacting climate patterns and ecosystems on a global scale.
Along with hoping for continued rainy weather, scientists are focusing on ways to enhance forest-management techniques that emphasize sustainability and biodiversity. This includes conserving the quality of the soil that trees depend on for nutrients and minerals and as a stable base for root expansion.
Oceanographers say that building up the Pacific Ocean’s pastures of plankton might help save trees, too. Plankton – the bacteria, algae and other floating organisms that drift in the sea – give off tiny aerosol droplets that create moisture-giving fog and rain.
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hope that man – and Mother Nature – can halt the devastation to California’s trees. In addition to their beauty, trees provide shelter and food for wildlife, combat soil erosion, clean our air, cool the environment, and benefit the planet in many other ways.
But, like the tree in Shel Silverstein’s beloved children’s book, The Giving Tree, trees can only give so much.
If we want them to be there for us, we need to give back.
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