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Home » Majestic sequoia trees can live for thousands of years. Climate change could wipe them out

Majestic sequoia trees can live for thousands of years. Climate change could wipe them out

Majestic sequoia trees can live for thousands of years. Climate change could wipe them out

Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (CNN)Almost everything about a sequoia tree is giant: It can grow to more than 200 feet tall and live longer than 3,000 years. Yet the sequoia's footprint is shrinking, as human-induced climate change threatens this ancient tree's survival.

Sequoias were once found across the Northern Hemisphere, but today, they only naturally grow across the western slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range in California.

So when the Castle Fire broke out in August 2020, and merged with another fire to tear through more than 174,000 acres over four months, the loss was something even experts didn't think possible -- somewhere between 7,500 to 10,600 mature giant sequoias were destroyed, according to a report by the National Park Service, published in June.

That's 10-14% of the entire world's population of mature sequoias -- a big chunk of history up in flames.

"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."

There are only around 48,000 acres of sequoia groves left in the world, and the trees are now facing threats from human-made climate change in several ways.

Scientists say that climate change is making wildfires more frequent and intense. Fires in June this year in the Western states would have been "virtually impossible" without human-made climate change, according to an analysis by more than two dozen scientists at the World Weather Attribution project.

The Castle Fire last year was started by lightning, but that doesn't mean climate change wasn't to blame -- a severe and extended drought in California had left vegetation extremely dry, turning it all into kindling, allowing fires here to burning hotter and longer.
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