California Fires: Will the Giant Redwoods Survive?

by Caroline Bynum

The majestic California redwoods were “standing when Jesus was born, and they were still upright when the Normans conquered Britain,” as LiveScience puts it. But as fires sweep Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the question has been prompted: will these huge, historic trees survive the blaze?

Redwoods’ Defenses

Will Russell, a forest ecologist, assured LiveScience that though these fires may kill some vegetation, it is all part of the natural lifecycle of the tree’s ecosystem. “Fires are a natural part of the coast redwood ecosystem, and old-growth trees have survived many fires over the centuries,” he said.

Furthermore, the ecologist explained that these redwoods have evolved in a way that adapts to forest-fires, to an extent. Russell says redwoods often reproduce from parts of their bodies, rather than relying on seeds. Because of this, they “can lose all green leaf tissue from fire and sprout back vigorously.” This phenomenon “allows for fast regeneration,” making up for any tree casualties due to the fires.

The giant trees “possess many defenses against flames,” a scientist tells LiveScience. Their mechanisms in fighting fires for centuries make the redwoods likely to survive these as well.

Photo by Randy Vazquez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Redwoods’ Survival

On Monday, Associated Press reported that a reporter hiked a trail at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The AP reporter confirmed that many trees withstood the burning.

Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, says this news is a huge relief. “That is such good news, I can’t tell you how much that gives me peace of mind,” she told AP.

McLendon explains that reports saying that the State Park is completely “gone” and are not completely true. As many experts report, the trees are meant to burn.

“It will regrow. Every old-growth redwood I’ve ever seen, in Big Basin and other parks, has fire scars on them. They’ve been through multiple fires, possibly worse than this,” she said.

State Parks District Superintendent Chris Spohrer says the trees have been around this long for a reason. They able to survive the heat: “The reason those trees are so old is because they are really resilient.”

So yes, the trees were standing for Jesus and the Normans. They have seen 2020’s Covid-19 global pandemic. And now, after beating the California fires, they will continue standing to see even more history.