Redwoods and Climate Change — Montgomery Woods Mendocino…


As the planet warms, will the progressive loss of coastal fog, which has declined over 30%, doom these beauties? KQED follows a team of UC Berekely researchers as they climb up into the crown of a huge old-growth redwood in Montgomery Woods to install monitoring equipment.


Recent advances enable Save the Redwoods League and a team of pioneering scientists to unlock the record of environmental changes stored in redwood tree rings. From individual trees to whole forests, we will study redwood growth, vulnerabilities, early indicators of stress and how these trees might respond to predicted climate changes.

Save the Redwoods League has united leading scientists Stephen C. Sillett and Robert Van Pelt of Humboldt State University and Todd Dawson and Anthony Ambrose of the University of California, Berkeley, to launch the Initiative. Their studies will yield results that quantify redwoods’ vulnerabilities to climatic changes and their capacities to mitigate these changes via photosynthesis, fog interception, wood production and carbon sequestration. They are uniquely qualified, in part, because they have developed many of the methods to obtain the study’s data.

The scientists are:

  • studying whole-tree and whole-forest rates of annual wood production back 1,000 years in forest plots throughout the redwood ranges. These measurements will help the team predict tree and forest growth in response to changing climates
  • reconstructing past climates to learn how redwoods responded to environmental conditions
  • assessing how redwoods are responding to current conditions
  • planning to manipulate temperature, carbon dioxide and water in greenhouse experiments to examine how redwood seedlings and saplings from different parts of the ranges might react to climatic changes

Strategies for Survival

Possible ways the Initiative findings could help redwoods survive in the future include

  • Protecting cooler and moister habitats so the trees will have a place to grow if their current range becomes too warm or dry
  • Guiding economic incentives for sustainable logging practices
  • Developing more sophisticated water and buffer management in the forecasted redwood range, in partnership with redwood forest landowners
  • Informing new public policy

Outcomes of the Initiative

  • Gain the critical data necessary to develop strategies for helping redwoods adapt to rapid environmental changes, thereby protecting the diverse ecosystems they define
  • Understand how restoration techniques can utilize carbon storage potential in the redwoods
  • Focus our conservation work in the places that need it most
  • Preserve watersheds to benefit redwood ecosystems, wildlife and people
  • Restore forests for the future
  • Gather data to inform sound public policy and conservation management strategies
  • Create a model for studying and protecting other forest ecosystems in California, the Pacific Northwest and the world
  • Inspire renewed hope for future generations to experience the wonder of ancient redwood forests

Integrity, Power & Passion

The Integrity of the Initiative lies in the integrated nature of the collaboration. The best redwood scientists in the world will develop and use established protocols and cutting-edge technology, linking ground based data, watershed plots and airplane based LiDAR data to scale up the findings.

The Power of the Initiative is that the data will inform models to understand the past, analyze impacts of current environmental changes, and help develop adaptive strategies for the future.

The Passion for the Initiative is reflected in the League’s more than 90-year history of success in protecting the redwoods. We must protect the existing redwood forests and work to ensure the future of the species.

With your help, the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative will succeed!