Story at a glance
- The 2020 Castle Fire killed roughly 10 percent of the world’s giant sequoias.
- As climate change worsens, wildfires are becoming more extreme and common.
- Researchers told CNN that the current pace of fires could threaten the entire species.
In June, the National Parks Service reported that 10 percent of the world’s giant sequoias had died in wildfires during the last year. As the fire season rages on, conservationists are racing the clock to save these mighty trees from extinction.
"They stood for a couple of thousand years before ancient Rome, before Christ," Clay Jordan, superintendent of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, told CNN. "I mean, these trees were mature."
In the past, Jordan told CNN, lightning would strike a low-intensity fire just once about every 10 to 20 years. But as the planet gets hotter, so are these fires, penetrating the thick bark of the tree into the crown.
Twelve giant sequoia groves in Sequoia National Forest burned in the 2020 Castle Fire, destroying an estimated 369 trees in the forest — and thousands in the surrounding area. Tim Borden, Save the Redwoods League's sequoia restoration and stewardship manager, told CNN the mortality rate for these trees was less than .01 percent before jumping up to 14 percent in 2020 — multiplying by 1,400.
"They're among the most rare, the oldest, the biggest living species in the world," Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, told CNN. "We don't have a moment to lose in getting these forests ready for our new reality."
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